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***New Providence and Westfield are 1-2 to head the UCT field and 20-0 Elizabeth is the sixth seed in what should be an intriguing 2023 Union County girls hoops event!

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***The recent traditional NCAA football national signing day was enjoyed throughout Essex County including at West Orange. Learn much more in "Feature Articles"

***Cranford hockey fortified the schedule this season under its first year coach Josh Mandel and now the Cougars are benefitting as the Kelly Division race hits real fever pitch. Learn more in "The Buzz"

Seton Hall Prep senior forward Darrius Phillips (left) goes hard to the basket in his team's Essex County Tournament first-round victory vs. Newark Collegiate. SHP frontcourt standout is one of the players to watch in quarterfinals set for Saturday. The top-seeded Pirates will entertain 8th-seeded Irvington at 1 p.m.. (Photo by PJ Candido/SHP)

Multiple Showdowns Between Opponents
Part Of The Mystique In ECT Quarterfinals

By Steve Tober
For sidelinechatter.com

Arts has gone 2-1 so far vs. East Side as it looks for a third win this season vs. the Red Raiders, while Caldwell is also trying to beat Columbia for a third time this season and a second time in less than a week.

Something could give, or perhaps not.

As the quarterfinals of the 76th Essex County Tournament prepare to tip off on Saturday, there is certainly some intrigue, particularly in the aforementioned pair of contests, while elsewhere top-seeded Seton Hall Prep will look to go about its business and battle-tested and fourth-seeded Immaculate Conception will attempt to make it three in a row vs. its Elite Eight opponent.

In the upper bracket it’s the defending champion Pirates (16-3) hosting eighth-seeded Irvington (14-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday, while at 4 o’clock it’s fourth-seeded IC (13-8) entertaining fifth-seeded East Orange Campus (10-9).

In the lower bracket second-seeded Arts (15-5) hosts seventh-seeded East Side (12-9) at 1, and sixth-seeded Columbia (15-4) visits third-seeded Caldwell (16-2) four days removed from their second conference showdown this season.

The ECT semis are scheduled for 3 and 5 p.m., Saturday, Feb.11, at West Orange High School, while the 2023 championship game is set for 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18, at Essex County College in Newark.

SHP remains the favorite; however, the Pirates have stumbled vs. Arts in their second meeting, 54-51, and they needed a buzzer-beating layup from senior guard Ethan Maynard to edge IC, 61-60, in the Essex Fest at West Side.

Saturday’s ECT Quarterfinal Matchups:
8-Irvington (14-4) at 1-Seton Hall Prep (16-3), 1 p.m.- Blue Knights have been a scrappy and aggressive team with good success so far in the SEC-Liberty Division with an 8-2 mark including splitting two games with Caldwell. Coach Elias Brantley’s team has a igh-scoring guard to watch in senior Sean Agard. SHP, which dropped a narrow 60-57 decision to Immaculate on Thursday in a key SEC-American Division game, counters with one of the best pure shooters in the SEC in senior Jackson Bleecker, emerging point guard Ethan Maynard and active 6-6 center Darrius Philips who scores, rebounds, blocks shots and is also a reliable assist artist.

5-East Orange Campus (10-9) at 4-Immaculate (13-8), 4 p.m.- Jaguars turned things around after a slow start this season and have played fairly steady basketball the past month behind the solid play of junior guard Kaiyri Barkley. Immaculate has played one of the state’s toughest independent schedules and is a superb 8-1 for first place in the SEC-American Division behind the stellar play of junior guard and Louisville commit TJ Robinson, veteran forward Tavian Pullock and exciting newcomer freshman forward Kole Grandison. Lions have a pair of wins vs. EOC, 60-48, Dec. 22, and 67-61, Jan. 24, when IC needed a big fourth quarter to seal the deal vs. Jags.

7-East Side (12-9) at 2-Arts (15-5), 1 p.m.- Red Raiders defeated Jaguars, 46-37, in the Newark Public Schools Tournament final after Arts won the first meeting between the two, 55-46. Then, in a third meeting and second conference clash, the Jaguars roared to convincing 76-41 triumph. Arts is led by its senior swingman Spencer Joyner (Boston University) and senior guards Faquir Mosley and Elijon Nix. The Jaguars will not have a Group 2 state title to pursue since they were ordered out of contention in the NJSIAA tourney after having multiple players leave the bench during scuffle at Roselle Catholic in violation with state rules.

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