Canucks to Become Member of Conference for the 2022-23 Academic Year
NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ—Last summer, GMC Hoops learned from its football site, Big Central Gridiron, that North Plainfield will be joining the Greater Middlesex Conference for the 2022-23 Academic Year. The Canucks will start playing next fall in all the sports offered in the conference except football, where they will remain a part of the Big Central Conference.
North Plainfield has been a member of the Skyland Conference for many years after competing in the Mountain Valley Conference. The Canucks join Somerset Tech and Mother Seton (for girls sports) as the only members of the GMC that are beyond the borders of Middlesex County. Somerset Tech, which resides in Bridgewater, joined the conference last season while Mother Seton, located in Clark became a member before that.
Last year, North Plainfield competed with a number of GMC schools during the abbreviated 2020 Big Central Conference football season. Two seasons ago, North Plainfield participated in the 2019 Mike Shello Tournament in Dunellen with the likes of the Destroyers, Highland Park, and Middlesex. The Canucks were slated to participate again before the latest COVID surge force the tourney’s cancellation.
Arch rival South Plainfield, which plays North Plainfield in football every year, and for many years on Thanksgiving, has been a member of the Greater Middlesex Conference since the inception of the league for the winter sports season during the 1985-86 academic year. The Tigers and Canucks also had a rivalry on the hardwood going back to the early days of each school, and have competed a number of times recently.
Earlier this season, on December 20th, North Plainfield hosted Spotswood in boys basketball, and it was quite a game. The Canucks battled a much improved Chargers team all the way to the final buzzer. The Canucks prevailed on a last second three pointer by Patrick Adams, 59-58. The Canucks, which currently compete in the Skyland Conference’s Valley Division, is 1-2 so far this season.
Another GMC connection that the Canucks is through their athletic director, Chris Balent. Balent was a standout boys basketball player at Dunellen back in the early 1990s. After being a part of the coaching staff at TCNJ, Balent became the head coach of South Brunswick’s boys basketball team for the 2005-06 season after Dave Turco stepped down to take the head coaching job at St. Joseph’s.
A year later, in the 2006-07 season, Balent guided the Vikings to great heights. For much of the season, South Brunswick was the top team in the GMC only to fall to Cardinal McCarrick in the 2007 GMCT Semifinals at Middlesex County College. However, Balent and the Vikes would rebound to turn in a tremendous run in the 2007 Group 4 State Playoffs by defeating the likes of Rancocas Valley (65-53) in the semis and 27-1 Freehold Township (88-71) for the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional crown played at Woodbridge High School.
The 2006-07 Vikings didn’t stop there either. South Brunswick then went on to defeat Cherokee (57-49) in overtime in the Group 4 state semifinals at Atlantic City High School before giving defending Group 4 state champion, Linden, all it could handle before falling in the 2007 Group 4 State Championship at Rutgers University. South Brunswick finished that season 27-3 overall, 14-0 in the GMC Red, and 17-1 in conference play.
The only losses suffered by the 2006-07 Vikings were against Elizabeth (70-65) at the Coalition to House the Homeless on January 20, 2007, McCarrick (66-64) in the GMCT semis on February 20, 2007, and Linden (63-54) in the Group 4 State Championship on March 11, 2007. This season marks the 15th anniversary of that team, which was led by Martin Soaries (Eastern University) and Devon Young (Felician University).