River Dell Varsity Boys Basketball Team soars into the Bergen County Invitational Tournament Semifinals


The River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Boys Basketball Team(12-7, 6-2 Big North Patriot) squared off against the Rutherford Bulldogs(16-6, 8-2 NJIC National) in the Bergen County Invitational Tournament Quarterfinals at Indian Hills High School in Oakland, New Jersey.

River Dell was coming off a 68-53 victory over Indian Hills on Thursday at River Dell High School. In the Bergen County Invitational Tournament first round, the Golden Hawks defeated Dwight-Englewood 58-51.

The Golden Hawks jumped to a 13-10 at the end of the first quarter. River Dell is shooting the ball efficiently from behind the arc by hitting three shots, including Liam Hickey, scoring the game's first points on a trifecta. Meanwhile, Sean Golden and Aditya Pandya combined to score ten points.

Liam Hickey said in the first quarter, "We got off to a good start in the first quarter." "Whether we kept applying pressure and pushing the ball down in transition and we wanted to play fast then slow down the game."

In the second quarter, the Golden Hawks continued to fire on all cylinders from downtown as Sean Golden Golden drained two additional triples while Patrick Sweeny added a trey. Liam Hickey, David Nunez, and Aditya Pandya contributed to the scoring column, enabling River Dell to widen their advantage to double digits and eventually take a 30-15 advantage into the locker room at halftime.

"Offensively, we tried to push the ball up, and if we couldn't find anything, we just would take it back out and run our offense," Liam Hickey explained. "Defensively we did a very good job containing their two guards and the dribble and not letting them hurt us with that." "Sean(Golden) and Aditya(Pandya) did a great job on their big man (Matthew Remias) (5 points in the first half)."

"Coach (Ron) Van Saders said we don't blow this lead again, and you want this feeling when you walk out of the locker room and not be regrettable, and this would be a big accomplishment if we win and his message to us."

Aditya Pandya on the team's defense in the first half and a message from Head Coach Ron Van Saders, "Defense was the main issue people thought we would have this season, but as a team, we decided that we needed defense to be able to win games and try our hardest and play with so much effort to get the stops and convert them into offensive points."

"Coach (Ron) Van Saders said to just keep our foot on the gas pedal and keep going." "He kept reminding us that we could be in the Final Four after this game and how many power points winning this game would bring us closer to getting a home state playoff game."

Moving to the third quarter, Liam Hickey erupted on the offensive end for the Golden Hawks, tallying 11 points, including knocking down two pearls. River Dell boosted the margin even further to 50-30 at the end of the period.

"In the third quarter, I got some good open looks, had two threes, which was good, and came out firing and trying to help my team win," Liam Hickey described. "I got to the foul line and felt good to have 11 points."

The Golden Hawks appeared to be in a prime position to expand their lead even further in the fourth quarter but went sideways as the Bulldogs ignited a furious rebuttal with an 18-5 run to cut the gap to seven points at 55-48. Rutherford is in the zone from the perimeter, hitting five treys. However, Patrick Sweeny knocked down a critical trifecta to bump the advantage back to double digits.

With Rutherford drawing to within seven points again and applying a stifling full-court press, River Dell escaped the pressure with pinpoint passing accuracy as Sean Golden tossed a wide-open pass to Aditya Pandya for a layup that provided some much-needed breathing room, and Pandya scored his seventh point in the quarter including his second triple of the game.

"It's great to see my shots falling and teammates finding me open," Aditya Pandya noted. "I'm in the right spot at the right time and just able to converge on the shots." "I practiced so much in the offseason to able to hit these shots during the games and finally paying off."

"It's a great boost to be connecting on all sides defensively and offensively." "When everyone is connecting and clicking together and to be able to make the right reads and take their shots it's just great for the team." "We know how to stay calm and get the ball into middle during a press."

In the closing minute, the Golden Hawks went to the free throw line, where both Sean Golden and Phil Doornheim sank a pair of free throws to seal the 64-53 win, booked a ticket to the BIT semifinals, and extended the winning streak to six games. Liam Hickey and Sean Golden each poured in a game-high 17 points, while Aditya Pandya supplied 16 points. 

River Dell faces the Dwight-Morrow Raiders(12-8, 5-2 Big North American) in the Bergen County Invitational Tournament Semifinals on Sunday, February 11th, at Saint Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, New Jersey, with tip-off set for noon. The teams met in the regular season's second game, with Dwight-Morrow winning 64-47.

"We had two goals before the state playoffs began, and that is to win the league and BIT, and we're in the semifinals, and we control our destiny," Liam Hickey stated. "We got a shot at a Dwight-Morrow team we lost to earlier in the season, and we have to go back and study the film and be ready to come out and play."

"One need to put a major emphasis is on rebounding and they outrebounded us in the last game." "We need to handle their pressure, so we'll get back to practice and study the film from that game."

On advancing to the BIT semifinals, Aditya Pandya said, "I'm excited and, most importantly, want to show the (Bergen County) Jamboree committee we should have been there." "We have a chance to be in the BIT final and get a rematch with Dwight Morrow, where we played horribly in the second game of the season, and get to set things straight."

"We're playing our best basketball right now and just have to stay at it and play hard on defense." "We can't be sluggish out there, have to run through our set on offense and keep doing what we have the last 10 games."

"A lot of people had doubts about this year's team because we lost a lot of starters." "We started the season 3-6, but we're now at 12-7, and it feels great because we're showing people we are a good team and still in the running for the league." "We have two league games this week and must pray Ramsey slips up and gets a loss."

The Golden Hawks return to action on Tuesday, February 6th, at Pascack Hills(10-7, 5-3 Big North Patriot) with tip-off set for 7 p.m. before returning home on Thursday, February 8th, to host Mahwah at 7 p.m.

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