It was an up-and-down night for boys basketball on Day One of the Skyland Conference Tournament.
With two top-seeds having first-round byes – Gill St. Bernard’s and Somerville – the only one in action moved on, but three teams are out due to COVID shutdowns.
Pingry’s entire athletic department is shutdown, while Ridge and North Hunterdon also are out.
There won’t be a rubber match between Gill St. Bernard’s and Hunterdon Central, after 5th-seed Watchung Hills knocked off the 4th-seeded Red Devils 46-43. Central gave Gill a game in Gladstone in their first meeting, 77-64, as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio. But the Red Devils won the rematch last week in Flemington, 57-49. Now, it’ll be the Warriors (10-3) who take on the top-seeded Knights (6-3) for a trip to the Blue title game.
On the other side of the bracket, 2nd-seed Rutgers Prep got by 7th-seed Franklin at home 70-51. The Argonauts (5-3) and will face third-seed Montgomery (10-2) in the semifinals Thursday night. The Cougars had the night off after 6th-seed Ridge announced yesterday it would not be able to play due to a COVID stoppage, ending the Red Devils’ season. It should be a highly anticipated matchup of two teams who – by a quirk of COVID shutdowns that affected Rutgers Prep – did not meet in the regular season, with both finishing unbeaten in divisional play.
Bound Brook was the only top-seed to play on the opening night, and the Crusaders did not disappoint, beating 8th-seed and winless Bridgewater-Raritan 66-54. Cam’ron Summers’ double-double – 18 points and 11 rebounds – led The Brook (12-0), while Jordan Summers added 12. In the semis, they’ll get a rematch with 4th-seed Bernards, their third meeting in a span of 13 days. The Mountaineers (8-3) got by 5th-seed Hillsborough 49-41.
In the other half of the bracket, third-seed Immaculata held off 6th-seed Voorhees 63-54. The Spartans are now 6-6, and move on to the Gold Division final to face either Bernards or Bound Brook following a COVID-related second-round bye. They should have faced the winner or 2nd-seed Pingry and 7th-seed North Hunterdon, but Pingry has shut down all athletic activities, and the North Hunterdon boys are out due to COVID as well.
It’s on to the semifinals to face top-seed Somerville (5-4) for 4th-seed Manville, which got by 5th-seed North Plainfield Tuesday night, 64-52, to improve to 6-5.
On the other side, 6th-seed Warren Hills pulled off the biggest upset by seed in the opening round of any of the brackets, knocking off 3rd-seed Warren Hills 47-38. The Lions (4-6) will now take on Delaware Valley, as the Terriers (7-3) nipped 7th-seed Belvidere 58-52 at home.
Here are all the semifinal pairings for Thursday’s action in the Skyland Conference Semifinals:
5-Watchung Hills (10-3) at 1-Gill St. Bernard’s (6-3), 5:30
3-Montgomery (10-2) at 2-Rutgers Prep (4-3), 6:00
4-Bernards (8-3) at 1-Bound Brook (12-0), 5:30 on Central Jersey Sports Radio
3-Immaculata (6-6) has a bye
4-Manville (6-5) at 1-Somerville (5-4)
6-South Hunterdon (4-6) at 2-Delaware Valley (7-3), 7:00
Despite their loss to Hunterdon Central last week, there’s a reason Gill St. Bernard’s is the top seed in the upper Blue Division pod. They’ll be a heavy favorite against Watchung Hills, but how will they do with the layoff? The Knights looked rusty in their opener against Hunterdon Central, and they’ll be coming off a four-day layoff. That’s what they had prior to a 71-70 win over a solid Elizabeth team on February 20th, and they had a five-day break before Bridgewater-Raritan on February 11th and a 90-54 win over the Panthers. Can Gill be had? Watchung Hills is somewhere in the middle of those two, and an A++ game could do the trick.
Meanwhile, Montgomery and Rutgers Prep is one to watch. These two Raritan Division mates did not meet in the regular season, a casualty of the COVID stoppages the Argonauts had. As a result, Monty won the division with a 6-0 record, though Prep was 3-0. So now, they meet again, for the first time, for the last time. (Sorry, Mel.) This is the highlight of the semifinal slate.
Well, not entirely. Montgomery-Rutgers Prep might be 1a, while Bound Brook-Bernards in the Gold Division is 1b. This is their third meeting in less than two weeks, as the undefeated Crusaders beat the Mountaineers 39-33 two Fridays ago, then 73-61 last Thursday night as heard on Central Jersey Sports Radio. We’ll have this one as well, with coverage starting at 5:15. Click here to listen. You can also watch the game on the Bound Brook YouTube Channel with commentary provided by Central Jersey Sports Radio. The winner faces Immaculata in the final, as the Spartans get a unique “second-round bye,” with both Pingry and North Hunterdon – the Spartans’ two potential semifinal opponents – both done because of COVID.
Somerville and Manville will meet for the first time this year in the Silver Division semifinals, in a game that could be too close to call; both are six-win teams. South Hunterdon already has pulled off one upset, knocking off the third seed. Can they beat Del Val – the 2nd seed – setting up a potential matchup with the top-seed in the final? As they say, stay tuned!