SOUTH ORANGE/MAPLEWOOD, NJ -- Columbia High School boys basketball coach Eugene "Bam" Robinson had hoped his team would be seeded in the top eight for the Essex County Tournament.

The Cougars, who have an 8-6 record, learned last night that they have the sixth seed for the ECT, which gets under way with preliminary round games this week. But because Columbia has such a high seed, the team will not have to play its first tournament game until three preliminary rounds have already taken place.

Columbia, which has played a demanding schedule in the highest level division of the Super Essex Conference, would host a round-of-16 game on Feb. 8 against the survivor of preliminary games in its bracket from among Science Park, Montclair Kimberley, Livingston and West Side.

Montclair Immaculate is the top seed. The tournament is slated to conclude with the championship game Feb. 22 at West Orange High School.