River Dell Varsity Girls Basketball Team stages furious fourth-quarter comeback to stun Old Tappan in the Joe Poli Tournament


The River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Girls Basketball Team(3-3) faced the Old Tappan Golden Knights(5-1) in the Joe Poli Tournament at Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale, New Jersey.

River Dell was coming off a 46-42 loss to Cranford at Cranford High School on December 23rd, dropping the Golden Hawks below the .500 mark. Morgan Sconza scored a game-high 17 points.

Returning to last season, the Golden Knights won both games against River Dell. First 37-27 in the Joe Poli Tournament, then 49-45 in the North Jersey Section 1  Group 3 state tournament playoff quarterfinals.

"Old Tappan has knocked us out the last few times and ended our season early," River Dell Head Coach Lindsay Steffner explained. "They beat us by a few times and at the Joe Poli, so for the group of the girls returning, that was tough to swallow."

The Golden Hawks came firing out of the gates in the first quarter by jumping to a quick 5-0 lead. Old Tappan responded with a run to trim the deficit to 7-6. River Dell stemmed the tide on a trifecta from Sofia Sanchez.

River Dell bumped their advantage to 15-8 on back-to-back jump shots from Alexa DePol. The Golden Knights ignited a rebuttal by closing out the period on an 8-0 run to take the lead 16-15.

In the second quarter, Dalia Interiano displayed her shooting ability from downtown, burying her second three- of the game to put the Golden Hawks back in front 18-16. Interiano tallied her eighth point.

The lead fluctuated back and forth four times in the quarter, but Old Tappan went into the locker room at halftime up 27-26 on a jumper from Grayson Housely.

Once the third quarter got underway, the Golden Knights came out aggressively on the offensive end, led by Maya Giordano, amassing ten points that propelled Old Tappan to 42-32 heading into the final frame. Meanwhile, River Dell struggled offensively, tallying six points.

The Golden Hawks, in desperate need of a spark, received that to start the fourth quarter with Dalia Interiano knocking down her third pearl of the game and increasing her points total to 13.

"That was a huge shot, and it did change the momentum," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner described. "We only had six points in the third quarter and we had to put together a nice run in the fourth quarter."

"That was probably Dalia's best game, and she played offensively and defensively and just very consistent throughout the game. " "She was focused and did a really nice job of bringing the defenses and handling the pressure." "She had the ball in her hands. That's a lot for a freshman in a big game, and she handled it very well today."

Methodically, River Dell chipped away at the Golden Knights lead. Accounting for five points through three quarters of play, Kasey Ziegler supplied six points in a row, including hitting a baseline jump shot that not only put the Golden Hawks ahead 43-32 but capped an 11-0 spurt.

Ziegler is a force on the offensive end, showcasing her skills in various ways, from the free throw line, inside the paint, and perimeter. Defensively, Ziegler blocked a couple of shots, diving on the floor for loose balls and rebounding the ball effectively.

"Kasey's athleticism is just unbelievable and makes things look easy," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner noted. "She had a lot of nice, blocked shots and gets deflections and diving for loose balls." "She provides the energy we need when everyone gets a little tired." "You're not sure where that next possession is going to come from, and out of nowhere, Kasey has her hands on the ball."

Old Tappan finally ended their scoring drought with Grayson Housely sinking her second triple of the game off the glass, tying it up at 45-45. The fearsome one-two tandem of the Giordano sisters Laya and Maya was held in check in the fourth quarter, delivering just two points after notching 28 points at the end of the third quarter.

"That's why we played different defenses today, which were four of them, and added a little bit more confusion," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner said. "We wanted to confuse the guards as much as possible and keep the Giordano sisters from getting the ball at times where it would be an easier shot-pointer, and they had to work hard for the shots they got but give them credit for really working."

"That's not a typical game for Housely but she banked in a three and took the shots she needed to take." "They went in, and she did a nice job of providing offense for Old Tappan when people say she's more than a defensive player."

Down the stretch, River Dell kept the motor humming by continuously driving to the rim, which resulted in trips to the free throw line. Alex DePol(11 points) hit a pair of free throws that put the Golden Hawks back in the lead 47-45.

"Alexa had a tough matchup with Layla Giordano, just knowing where she was all the time and trying to make hard shots for Layla, and she did a nice job of that," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner said. "On the opposite side, coming down and wanting the ball in her hands, making the foul shots, and getting offensive rebounds and second chance shots." "She was in the right spot at the right time today."

Morgan Sconza(7 points) and Kasey Ziegler also delivered in the clutch by knocking down free throws that extended the River Dell's advantage to 51-45 with less than 20 seconds remaining.

The Golden Knights refused to throw in the white towel as Grayson Housely unleashed her third trey of the game, narrowing the margin to 51-48. Once again, the Golden Hawks were sizzling from the charity stripe line as Sofia Sanchez(10 points) drained a pair of shots.

Layla Giordano kept things interesting with a coast-to-coast layup of 53-50 in the waning seconds. Alexa Depol sealed the incredible 54-50 comeback victory by hitting one of two shots at the free throw line and sending the Golden Knights to their first loss of the season.

Despite a brief dust-up as the final buzzer sounded, Old Tappan's Sadie Murphy colliding with Morgan Sconza didn't prevent the River Dell players and coaching staff from celebrating the win.

"The players handled themselves with a lot of pride in the game and trying to go out there and every possession mattered and were really locked in," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner remarked. "They stayed consistent with their efforts today and we talked a lot about that in the locker room and put together a 32-minute game today."

"Both teams were exhausted and gave everything in the game, and it's just a matter of whoever can wear down, and we came up with the huge foul shots in the fourth quarter and did that against a very good team." "Morgan and Sofia are the two I want to the ball in their hands at the end and did a nice job of picking their moments to get the ball."

"This is special here because the fans were there to support us, and a lot of our alumni are back, and that's a big win for them because of what happened last year, and we took care of business today for them."

"We came off a couple of hard losses this season and there's a lot of learning going on and just not on offense and defense but who's taking leadership roles in the locker room and a confidence booster and it's good to get a win like this where the girls feel more confident in their abilities and roles."

The Golden Hawks return to action in the semifinals of the Joe Poli Tournament pitted against the New Providence Pioneers(4-1) on Thursday, December 28th, with tip-off set for 3 p.m. at Pascack Valley High School. New Providence rolled past Holy Angels 63-27.

"New Providence is very skilled and play cohesive as a group," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner mentioned. "They had some height and good shooters and we're going to have another stellar performance to get by them."

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