There was definitely a different kind of buzz in the crowd during the nightcap of the Union County Boys Basketball Tournament semifinals doubleheader at Kean University’s Harwood Arena Wednesday night.
Eighth-seeded Union took fourth-seeded Linden down to the wire but when the final buzzer sounded, it was Linden prevailing 54-45.
The Tigers (17-6) will face second-seeded Patrick School in the county final 6 p.m. Saturday again at Harwood Arena.
“We made plays when we needed to make plays,” Linden coach Phil Colicchio said. “Fortunately we got some rebounds and made some foul shots at the end.”
The game opened up with Linden’s Terrell Bagley and Quadri Moore getting off to hot starts. Bagley and Moore combined for 13 of the team’s 15 first quarter points.
“You always want to get off to a good start,” Colicchio said. “When you look at some of our big games, Terrell picks up two fouls in the first minute of the game. I think that hurts us a little bit, and it will be critical to get off to a good start Saturday.”
Bagley finished the game with 20 points and seven rebounds. Moore hit three big free throws to finish the game with 12 points and six rebounds.
“Bagley stayed in the gym last night shooting until we had to throw him out,” Colicchio said. “He just loves basketball. He’ll make a play that’ll drive you nuts and the next second he will make nine great plays.”
However, Bagley checked out early in the fourth quarter with his fourth foul, but he came back late in the game and hit two free throws to solidify the victory.
Linden’s Juwan Jones knocked down a pair of clutch field goals in the fourth quarter. One of them was a 3-pointer to put the Tigers back on top.
Union (11-13), the Cinderella story of this year’s tournament, upset second-seeded Roselle Catholic in the quarterfinals and gave Linden a run for its money. Jaleel Chain had 23 points for the Farmers, but only managed to score three in the fourth quarter.
Patrick School defeated third-seeded Elizabeth, 51-47, in the first game of the semifinals.
“We are going to do like we do every year,” Colicchio said. “We are going to throw our stuff out there, we’re going to play as hard as we can and we’re going to see what happens at the end of the game.”
Linden is 2-5 under Colicchio in the UCT final, having faced Patrick School (formerly St. Patrick’s) each time. The Tigers last won the county title in 2007 when they defeated St. Pat’s 63-51. They’ve dropped two straight appearances, the last of which was a 70-58 decision in 2011.