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    See the latest links in NJ.com girls basketball state tournament preview.

    Get your game face on. The tournament starts Monday.

    Here is our complete and extensive state tournament preview, with lots of serious basketball analysis and a little fun too.

    NJ.com will, of course have extensive round-by-round coverage of the tournament, from now through the T of C final on March 18.

    BRACKET-BY-BRACKET
    All the brackets 
    Favorites, dark horses, players to watch & more - every bracket
    Sites & times for the state tournament

    FEATURES
    NJ.com's predicts all 20 sectional champs
    Upset alerts: Our complete Round 1 picks

    X-Factors: Which players will excel in the state tournament?

    Players to watch in each section of 2018 state tourney
    • 17 lower-seeded teams that can make a run
    15 takeaways from the state tournament seeds 

    Brian Deakyne may be reached at bdeakyne@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @BrianDeakyne. Like NJ.com High School Sports on Facebook.


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    The MOC provided some incredible performances. But who had the best day?


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    Complete guide to the 2018 state tournament.

    The boys basketball preview is essentially complete with the addition Thursday of the huge bracket-by-bracket breakdown. But be sure to keep coming back to this post - we have a piece or two to add before play starts on Monday - like Friday's addition of can't-miss Round 1 games.

    BRACKET-BY-BRACKET
    Every section's favorites, dark horses, players to watch & more
     All the brackets
     Sites and times for Group semis and finals

    FEATURES
    23 can't-miss Round 1 games
     Predicting all 20 section champs
     From Antoine to Zona: A-to-Z guide to the state tourney

     High seeds poised to be tourney spoilers

     NJ.com's superhero squad
     X-factors for the state tournament 
     Takeaways from the state tournament seeding meeting

    Richard Greco may be reached at rgreco@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Richard_V_Greco. Mike Kinney may be reached at mkinney@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter @MikeKinneyHS. Kevin Minnick may be reached at kminnick@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on twitter @kminnicksportsLike NJ.com HS sports on Facebook.


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    Check out the list of placewinners from the 2017 NJSIAA Wrestling Championships who will be returning to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on March 2-3-4.


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    A coalition of mayors are pushing lawmakers to bring back earned sick days legislation that would guarantee workers can take paid time off when they are sick.


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    The new bill would allow people serving prison sentences or on probation or parole to vote in elections. Watch video

    State lawmakers on Monday announced legislation that would return voting rights to nearly 100,000 people locked up in prison or serving parole or probation in New Jersey.

    If passed, it would make New Jersey the third state in the country to allow people to vote while serving prison sentences.  

    The charge is being led by members of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus, who say laws prohibiting inmates from voting disproportionately hurt black New Jerseyans. 

    "There is no relationship between voting and committing crimes," said state Sen. Ronald Rice, D-Essex, one of the bill's prime sponsors. "To disenfranchise those who have made mistakes and are paying for them is wrong." 

    It will likely face opposition from Republican lawmakers, one of whom said Monday that voters "shouldn't trust" inmates to choose elected leaders. 

    Currently, New Jersey residents with criminal records are allowed to vote, but only after they have completed their sentence and paid back any restitution or court fees. The proposed law would allow inmates to vote absentee in their home district. 

    Research from the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, which supports the new legislation, shows 94,000 people with criminal convictions are currently denied the right to vote -- a population larger than New Jersey's state capital, Trenton.

    Advocates at a Statehouse press conference on Monday noted New Jersey has a severe racial disparity in its prison population despite similar offense rates between black and white residents. 

    'Severe racial disparity' at N.J. prisons, report finds

    Bill co-sponsor state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, D-Hudson, said lawmakers introduced the bill on Monday to commemorate the 1869 passage by Congress of the 15th Amendment, which gave black men the right to vote. She noted that New Jersey was one of seven states which initially opposed the amendment before approving it once it became law. 

    "We're still refusing, 150 years later," Cunningham said. "We haven't grown at all." 

    It's unclear whether the bill has the support of top Democrats in the state.

    A report from Gov. Phil Murphy's transition team endorsed giving voting rights to those on parole and probation but stopped short of saying inmates should vote.

    A spokesman for Murphy said Monday the governor supports expanding voter enfranchisement but did not indicate whether he would support the bill.

    "Governor Murphy believes that we are a better, stronger, and more representative democracy when more New Jerseyans participate," spokesman Dan Bryan said. "He looks forward to working with the legislature to pass legislation that expands access to the ballot."

    State Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, said in a statement Monday that losing the right to vote is "part of the risk (inmates) assume when they break the law, and part of the incentive structure for people to follow the law.

    "Do we really believe that murderers and rapists who are serving prison sentences should be allowed to influence elections and public policy?" Cardinale said.

    At his press conference, Rice rejected the notion that taking away the right to vote is an effective crime deterrent.

    "There's no one that's going to rob a bank or break in a house that if I said, 'You do that again, I'm going to take away your voting rights,' that's going to be deterred," he said. "There's no one that says, 'I"m going to be a better person if you take away my rights.'"

    S.P. Sullivan may be reached at ssullivan@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    New Jersey and New York City didn't get much snow in February, but our region sure got a lot of rain. Enough to break some records.


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    N.J. has produced outstanding big men over the past 30 years. Who are the elite of the elite?


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    Jordan plays protagonist Guy Montag in the newest adaptation of Ray Bradbury's novel. Watch video

    HBO's adaptation of Ray Bradbury's 1953 novel "Fahrenheit 451" just got a new trailer. Starring in the book-burning tale: Newark's own Michael B. Jordan ("Black Panther").

    The TV movie, directed by Ramin Bahrani ("99 Homes"), also stars Michael Shannon ("The Shape of Water") and Sofia Boutella ("The Mummy").

    In this rendering of the classic dystopian story, Jordan plays the protagonist -- or "fireman" -- Guy Montag. Shannon plays the novel's Captain Beatty character and Boutella plays Clarisse McClellan. 

    The 1966 film adaptation of the movie, directed by Francois Truffaut, starred Oskar Werner (as Montag), Julie Christie (as Clarisse) and Cyril Cusack (as Captain Beatty). 

    "Fahrenheit 451" is due out in May. Second-unit filming for the movie (which usually involves establishing shots and other fleeting footage), was done in New Jersey. 

    In 2015, Jordan, who was born in Santa Ana, California and grew up in Newark, earned acclaim for playing aspiring fighter Adonis Johnson, son of Apollo Creed, opposite Sylvester Stallone's Rocky Balboa in the movie "Creed," directed by Ryan Coogler. Jordan first worked with Coogler in the 2013 film "Fruitvale Station." When he was younger, the actor played Wallace on HBO's "The Wire."

    Jordan, who also played Johnny Storm, aka The Human Torch, in Marvel's "Fantastic Four" in 2015, plays villain Erik Killmonger in Marvel's "Black Panther," which is also directed by Coogler. The film, released on Feb. 16, has drawn widespread praise and has so far brought in more than $700 million worldwide. 

    Stallone and Jordan are due to reprise their Rocky and Adonis roles in "Creed II," which is slated for release in November. In the sequel to the Philadelphia-set film, Adonis will square off against the son of another classic Rocky opponent, Ivan Drago, who will again be played by Dolph Lundgren ("Rocky IV"). 

     

    Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at akuperinsky@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.

     

     

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    A college employee called campus public safety at about 10 a.m. to report that a person on campus appeared to be carrying a weapon

    A Union County College student was arrested Monday for bringing fake guns onto the college's Cranford campus, authorities said.

    Eric Jacobs, 20, of Millburn, was charged with fourth degree possession of an imitation firearm for an unlawful purpose and creating a hazardous condition, a disorderly persons offense. 

    A college employee called campus public safety at about 10 a.m. to report that a person on campus appeared to be carrying a weapon. 

    Cranford Police arrived on scene and arrested Jacobs without incident. Officers found him with three imitation weapons -- one resembling a rifle and two resembling handguns, the Union County Prosecutor's Office said in a statement.

    Classes were not disrupted, college spokeswoman Jaime Segal said.

    "This was a best case outcome for this kind of situation. A college employee saw something and said something," Segal said. "This outcome was possible due to the alertness and diligence of our staff, who efficiently worked together with the Cranford (Police)."

    "We encourage all of our staff and students to be alert and observant and share concerns with our Public Safety officers so that situations may proactively be addressed, as was the case here," she said.

    Jacobs was still in custody Monday afternoon and the incident remains under investigation. Additional charges are possible, authorities said. 

    Anyone with information is urged to call Cranford Police Detective Derek Farbanec at  908-709-7347.

    Union County College is a two-year public college with campuses in Cranford, Elizabeth and Plainfield and two satellite locations in Rahway and Scotch Plains. It has about 30,000 enrolled students. 

    Allison Pries may be reached at apries@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AllisonPries. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    Newton Mayor Wayne Levante said the media, not high school student David Hogg, was his target. Watch video

    Newton Mayor Wayne Levante is standing by his Facebook peddling of debunked "crisis actor" conspiracies targeting David Hogg but said it was intended as a rebuke of the media, not the high school student.

    Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting, spoke at a gun safety rally in Livingston on Sunday -- several days after Levante, via multiple posts on the mayor's personal Facebook page, waded into a discredited video and other allegations on the Internet attacking the 17-year-old's story.

    mayorwayne.jpgMayor Wayne Levante at a Town Council meeting in Newton, Feb. 26, 2018

    "People have a right to look at this stuff and form an opinion," Levante, a Republican, said Monday night of a post he shared from the "Donald Trump Commander in Chief 2020" Facebook page.

    "They have a right to watch David Hogg struggling to answer questions and misstating words and for them to decide whether or not he's just a nervous young kid, or he's trying to remember lines that CNN gave him," Levante said, in an indirect allusion to another debunked conspiracy theory about the network scripting questions for the Florida survivors.

    Levante added that he accepts Hogg was at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, when 17 were killed, but is undecided on whether the story he is telling is fully his own.

    "I'm not saying one or the other," he said in an interview before the Newton Town Council meeting.

    Levante is running for reelection to the council in May and was named mayor last summer. He drew statewide attention last fall upon calling for a consolidated, county-wide school district in Sussex County.

    Though his personal Facebook account is set to private, his posts about Hogg became public after James Santonastaso -- one of the mayor's Facebook "friends -- uploaded screen shots to the page of the Newton Democrats.

    Levante did not dispute the authenticity of his posts, including one from the Trump 2020 page in which he shared a description of Hogg as a "so-called student, but actually a crisis actor."

    mayorlevante.jpgOne of Wayne Levante's Facebook posts

    In another post, Levante wrote, "Something just isn't authentic with this kid."

    His posts prompted Scott McDonald, the former mayor of Washington Borough in Warren County, to post an FYI note to Levante's account with a link to a news story about an aide to a Republican state legislator in Florida fired after falsely accusing Hogg and other students of being child actors.

    Santonastaso is a member of the Sussex County Democratic Committee who drew notice in August after he recorded Assemblyman Parker Space, R-24th, describing one of his Democratic opponents as a "bitch" three times following a drug awareness vigil in Newton.

    Contacted Monday, he said he shared Levante's posts with the public because he felt Newton residents should have the opportunity to discuss them.

    "I'd like to see him come out and show some support to the kids in Parkland, because that's what matters now," Santanastaso, a Hampton resident, said of Levante.

    However, when the Newton Town Council met at 7 p.m., no one in the audience addressed the mayor's Facebook posts, nor did any of the other members of the council.

    Levante weighed in at the start, speaking for just over a minute and telling the audience that it is "too early" to be discussing gun control and other policy matters relating to the Florida shooting.

    Earlier, he offered a fuller explanation on his separate, public Facebook page, which he retooled as a blog after drawing some criticism last fall over his school board commentaries. 

    "I put that the media is playing us," Levante told the audience.

    "They're pushing an agenda with this tragedy and I stand by that statement," he said.

    Rob Jennings may be reached at rjennings@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobJenningsNJ. Find NJ.com on Facebook


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    Terminal One will debut as early as 2021 and is projected to create more than 23,000 jobs.

    A sleek, modern terminal is coming to one of the busiest international airports in the U.S. and it could ease passenger congestion as soon as 2021. 

    Newark Liberty International Airport is forging ahead with a $2.7 billion redevelopment plan to overhaul its oldest terminal and build a one-million square-foot terminal with 33 gates and a new 3,000-car parking garage. 

    The project, named Terminal One, broke ground last June. Last week, the Board of Commissioners for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, approved additional funding and picked the team that will design and construct the terminal for $1.41 billion: Tutor Perini Corporation and Parsons Transportation Group Inc.

    All told, Terminal One is expected to create more than 23,000 jobs, $1.9 billion in wages and spur $4.6 billion in economic activity in the area, according to estimates by the Port Authority. 

    "There has been a continuous surge in the number of passengers at Newark Liberty, which last year welcomed more than 40 million of them," Port Authority Chairman Kevin O'Toole said in a statement, adding that the current terminal could no longer accommodate growing traveler needs. 

    Terminal A, which will be upgraded and renamed Terminal One, is the older of three terminals at the airport, according to a briefing book on the project. In 2016, the terminal served 10.6 million annual passengers.

    Terminal One is estimated to have a partial opening in 2021 and be in full operation by 2022, officials said. 

    The planned upgrades will reduce passenger congestion with new roadways and a pedestrian bridge. The 45-year-old airport will also get new dining and retail spaces as well as updated technology. 

    Construction is already underway on three roadway bridges.

    Karen Yi may be reached at kyi@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @karen_yi or on Facebook


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    The 42-year-old Californian faces 10 years to life in prison when he is sentenced in June

    The second of two men arrested in New Jersey last summer after police found more than 310 pounds of heroin and cocaine in a truck admitted to drug trafficking charges on Monday.

    Hector Lucas-Ramos, 42, pleaded guilty in a federal courtroom in Trenton to intent to distribute heroin and  cocaine, the U.S. Attorney's Office for New Jersey said in a statement. 

    Lucas-Ramos, of National City, California, was a passenger in a tractor-trailer pulled over by police in Essex County on Aug. 27 after committing traffic violations, authorities said.

    A search of the truck turned up five duffel bags containing 187 pounds of cocaine and more than 123 pounds of heroin.

    4 charged in heroin, cocaine distribution scheme

    Investigators said the driver, Abraham Castro, admitted he knew they were transporting drugs, while Lucas-Ramos told them the pair had made a previous trip to pick up a large quantity of cash.

    Lucas-Ramos faces to 10 years to life in prison when he sentenced June 27.

    Castro, 33, of San Diego pleaded guilty in November and awaits sentencing. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

     

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    Sorting through the madness and breaking down some of the best state tournament action so far.


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    Ali Muhammad Brown is the first person to be charged with terrorism under state law in a homicide case.


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    The NJSIAA will seed the 2018 individual state tournament brackets Tuesday. Check here often for updates on seedings, pairings and brackets


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    The 64-year-old is a teacher at Washington Elementary School

    A West Orange elementary school teacher is in critical condition after she was hit by a car while crossing the street Monday night, officials said. 

    Patricia Villarosa, 64, a teacher at Washington Elementary School, was struck around 8 p.m. on Pleasant Valley Way near West Orange High School, Mayor Robert Parisi's office said in a release Tuesday.

    Villarosa remained in critical condition Tuesday, officials said.

    The driver, a 55-year-old West Orange man, stayed at the scene, officials. The crash remain under investigation.

    Villarosa teaches the first grade, according to the school's website. School officials did not have an immediate comment on the crash. 

     Amanda Hoover can be reached at ahoover@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @amandahoovernj. Find NJ.com on Facebook


    Have a tip? 
    Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    Each of N.J. hockey's four state tournament brackets are down to their Final Fours.


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    The two 18-year-olds are among four teenagers charged in the county in school threat cases since a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida

    A Superior Court judge will decide whether two 18-year-olds remain jailed pending trial after allegedly making online threats against two high schools in Essex County.

    Joseph Rafanello, accused of posting a video on Instagram threatening Nutley High School about a week prior to the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, is scheduled to appear in state Superior Court on Wednesday for a detention hearing, Acting County Prosecutor Robert Laurino told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

    The prosecutor's office said Michael Schmitt, charged with making threats on social media that sparked a lockdown at West Caldwell High School, is scheduled appear before Judge Peter V. Ryan on Thursday for a similar hearing.

    Authorities said two other teenagers, a 13-year-old from Madison and a 14-year-old from Nutley, have been charged as juveniles for allegedly making a threat against Abundant Life Academy, a private school in Nutley. Their names have not been released because of their age.

    While Essex County alone has seen two school threat incidents in Nutley and another in West Caldwell in just a week's time, the prosecutor told reporters an uptick in such reports is not uncommon following high-profile mass shootings.

    "In the case of a mass shooting, there is usually a spike in such calls for up to 30 days following such a tragedy," Laurino said.

    The prosecutor noted Rafanello's allegedly threatening Instagram post was made and deleted prior to the Parkland shooting, while the other two incidents appeared to be copycats.

    Laurino said he wanted to make it "loud and clear" that authorities won't view such threats as juvenile pranks.

    "These are crimes that are punishable by up to five years imprisonment, for an adult," he said.

    The juvenile defendants face possible time in a juvenile detention facility and the loss of driving privileges.

    John CoulourisJohn Colouris. (Essex County Prosecutor's Office) 

    Tuesday's news conference at the prosecutor's office came a day after a 19-year-old Hackensack man pleaded guilty to using two fake Facebook accounts to make threats against Livingston High School in September 2016.

    Prosecutors said John Coulouris twice threatened to kill everyone at the high school, and also was involved with a "hacking collective" that conspired to send a bomb to the home of an Essex County judge. 

    In addition to eight counts related to those crimes, the prosecutor's office said Colouris pleaded guilty to two counts of cyber harassment and invasion of privacy, and two counts of terroristic threats, for harassing his ex-girlfriend and her mother online.

    Authorities said he's expected to receive a sentence of seven years in prison when he's sentenced on April 6, 2018.

    Laurino declined to comment on a fourth recently reported incident in Cedar Grove, which he said remains under investigation.

    The prosecutor urged with information about such threats to immediately contact their local police department, or the state Department of Homeland Security at 1-866-4-SAFE-NJ or tips@njohsp.gov

    It was not known Tuesday night whether Rafanello or Schmitt had retained a lawyer who could comment on the charges.

    Thomas Moriarty may be reached at tmoriarty@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ThomasDMoriarty. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

    Have a tip? Tell us. nj.com/tips


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    You think your local high school is great. Does the state's new rating system agree?


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