River Dell Varsity Boys Basketball Team advances to North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Tournament Semifinals


The River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Boys Basketball Team (21-6) squared off against the Demarest Norsemen (14-12) in the North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Quarterfinals in front of a lively and sold-out crowd at River Dell High School in Oradell, New Jersey.

River Dell was coming off a 64-47 win over Tenafly in the tournament's first round on Monday afternoon—Matt Kelleher totaling 29 points.

The Golden Hawks came out firing on all cylinders against Demarest, racing out to a 7-0 advantage in the first quarter. The Norsemen responded with a run to trim the lead to 9-7. By the time the period ended, River Dell had led 14-13, with Hamilton Roth notching nine points.

"Right out of the gate I felt I could score every time I was coming down the floor, Hamilton Roth explained. Whether it was two or three points and going out there and feeling the energy and scoring nine points was great."

"It's amazing to know how many people support you and excited to see you play and cheer you on. Last year after the Paramus and Wayne Hills playoff games this felt like the same energy. Every time you score you hear the crowd scream and cheer you on and so much fun to be out there."

In the second quarter, the teams traded places, taking the lead several times. Sean Golden provided the offense for the Golden Hawks, tallying eight points. Matt Kelleher put River Dell up 26-25 on a fast-break lay-up at halftime.

Hamilton Roth, on the message from Head Coach Ron Van Saders at intermission, "He was saying it was our game to be out there and wanting to play again on Friday night in front of all your friends. You don't want this to be your last game and want one more practice; go on that run and keep winning."

The score was tied at 30-30 in the third quarter when the Golden Hawks erupted for a 14-1 run to close the period. Sean Golden picked up where he left off in the second quarter pumping in seven additional points. Andrew Lezaja provided a spark as well, supplying seven points.

It's having great teammates who are looking to make the right play, Hamilton Roth described. Having five players on the floor willing to pass the ball up for a better shot."

Once the fourth quarter commenced, River Dell did not step off the gas pedal despite the Norsemen cranking up the defensive intensity with a stifling full-court press. However, the Golden Hawks countered that pressure with effective passes leading to layups and free throws.

River Dell relied again on balanced scoring in the period, with Matt Kelleher and Jack Carey dropping in six points apiece with Hamilton Roth adding five.

"The biggest thing is not always one guy, and somebody else can step in if someone's having a challenging game, whether it's Matt, me, or Sean, Hamilton Roth noted. We all focus on defense and know we must play tough and more robustly than the other team. We're unstoppable if we play together as a team.

"It's great to have people come off the bench, I was in foul trouble early in the game and knowing there are guys on the bench that come in and take your spot and do the right thing. Playing defense and scoring the ball and they will do everything to help the team and it's just great to have other guys that do anything and be a utility player."

"Demarest was desperate, and they were trying to get a steal on every possession. We knew there were going to be open layups and find the open guys and calms down and knew the pressure was coming. We had to step through the traps and find the open guy. They were scrapping and clawing to come back."

The Golden Hawks eventually stretched out the margin as they coasted to the 66-46 victory, their 21st win, and advancing to the North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Semifinals.

Sean Golden netted a team-high 17 points, Hamilton Roth finished with 16 points, Andrew Lezaja registered 15 points, and Matt Kelleher contributed 10 points.

"It's great knowing that we're probably one of the top five teams in River Dell history, Hamilton Roth stated. We have won 21 games and at the beginning of the season we didn't know where we were going to be. It's great knowing we proved and exceeded expectations and excelled in everything."

"It's great knowing the work I put in and when I was little, I would see the varsity guys after elementary practice and go see them and play. I always remember wanting to be out there and be playing in front of everybody. To be able to put that jersey on and play in front of your friends you've known since elementary school is amazing and the community supporting you is something you will never forget."

Next up for River Dell is a North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Semifinal match-up against second-seed Teaneck on Friday, February 24th, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. at Teaneck High School. The Highwaymen defeated Northern Highlands 75-67 in the Quarterfinals.

"It's going to be a good game and take everything we got to win the game but it's winnable, Hamilton Roth remarked. They have one guy (Tyler Tejada) who is 6'9 and going to Towson University and is going to get his points but we must play tougher and overpower their guards. We have to play our game and be disciplined and strong."

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