IRVINGTON, NJ – In the rich history of high school basketball in Essex County, there have been some storied teams and superb players.
During the decade of the 1990s, Irvington High School was the team people talked about the most. Under the direction of Kurt Fenchel, the team won four straight ECT titles from 1992-95. The banner season came in the winter of 1992-93 when Irvington also won a state crown and chalked up a record of 24-2.
Talented players like Terry Naylor and Sulaiman Abdullah were in the spotlight for IHS, but a multi-talented sophomore guard named Ramadan Brunson also proved to be the key figure. Time after time, Brunson came up with big plays on the hardwood for Fenchel’s crew.
On May 10, Brunson and his teammates from 1992-93 will be inducted into the Irvington High School Hall of Fame. The event promises to be one of the most special days in school history. Brunson also will be inducted in the Modern Player category.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since we had that great season,” said Brunson. “I was just happy to contribute, because I was one of the younger guys on the team.
“We all had our roles to play in every game. The coach had the knack for having the right people on the court at the big moments in particular games.”
Brunson and his teammates prided themselves on playing tough defense. Irvington played as a team in every game, and guys weren’t concerned with individual stats.
“When I had the ball, I wanted to keep all my teammates happy,” reflected Brunson. “I appreciated the fact that Coach Fenchel had the confidence in me to help the team be successful.”
Each year, different players stepped up for IHS, starting with Donald Moxley and Kenya Capers in 1991-92.
After the spectacular 1992-92 campaign, Brunson
and Maurice Bullock were the leaders in 1994, and in Brunson’s senior year in 1995, Kareem Peeples was another key figure.
In the 1993 ECT, Irvington topped Belleville by 40 points in the first round. Then came impressive wins over East Orange and Newark East Side. In the finals before a big crowd at Essex County College, Irvington edged Clifford Scott, 66-62. Irvington also beat Scott in the 1994 final, 70-69.
“Clifford Scott was a tough team, but we knew we could beat them,” said Brunson. “Heck, every year I was on the team, we expected to win the ECT.”
The four-year championship run began in 1992 against Essex Catholic, and ended in 1995 against Montclair.
“Playing in a tough conference got us ready for the ECT and states,” remarked Brunson, who was a big fan of the New York Knicks growing up.
“Ramadan was always a clutch player for the team,” said former Irvington Athletic Director Bruce Essing. “He just had the talent to do so much on the court. There’s no question that throughout his career, he was the ‘money man’ for the team.”
COURT NOTES – Current Columbia High hoops coach Eugene Robinson was also a key man in 1992-93 for IHS… Fenchel is now an assistant coach at Brookdale Community College… In the Nineties, guard Brevin Knight of Seton Hall Prep was the top player in Essex County… The Watchung Conference was always very competitive… Naylor’s 14 points led IHS in the 1993 ECT finals.