River Dell Varsity Boys Basketball Team shows gutsy effort in Bergen County Invitational Tournament Semifinal loss to Dwight-Morrow


The River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Boys Team(13-9- 7-3 Big North Patriot) faced the Dwight Morrow Maroon Raiders(13-10. 5-3 Big North American) in the Bergen County Invitational Tournament Semifinals at Saint Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, New Jersey.

River Dell was coming off a solid 73-65 win over Mahwah on Senior Night at River Dell High School in Oradell, New Jersey. Four players scored in double figures, led by Sean Golden, pouring in a game-high 24 points.

The Golden Hawks came flying out of the gates in the first quarter against Dwight Morrow as Sean Golden picked up where he left off against Mahwah in tallying points at will by dropping seven points. Golden buried a trifecta just before the buzzer sounded that propelled River Dell to a 13-12 lead at the end of the period.

Liam Hickey on the first quarter, "We got off to a great start and just knew if we ran our offense and moved the ball around and played within ourselves, we will be good."

In the second quarter, the Maroon Raiders offense started to click due to Damani and Maurice Williams notching nine points. On the flipside, Liam Hickey drained a pair of triples for the Golden Hawks. By the time the teams hit their respective locker rooms at halftime, Dwight Morrow led by a single point at 24-23.

"It was a good game, we hung in there and battled back and forth with Dwight Morrow until halftime," Liam Hickey explained. "We traded baskets and a good defensive first half."

Liam Hickey, on the halftime message from Head Coach Ron Van Saders, said, "Coach said we were playing good basketball and to keep that together and go out and win the game." "He said to handle their pressure and emphasized defense because they're going to come out and don't like to dribble the ball around too much, and it's one or two quick moves and on the go, and we need to move around and keep defending well."

Once the third quarter commenced, the Maroon Raiders ramped up the defensive pressure with a full-court trapping press that resulted in River Dell committing several turnovers. Meanwhile, Damani and Maurice Williams's duo continued wreaking havoc on the offensive end, netting 14 points.

The Golden Hawks' offense hit a snag with some missed layups and jump shots despite Liam Hickey unleashing his third peal. Dwight Morrow took a double-digit advantage into the final frame at 43-32.

"I think we lost it there in the third quarter," Liam Hickey described. "We were battling back and forth until maybe the five- or six-minute market and Dwight Morrow started to take control of the game."

In the fourth quarter, River Dell managed to trim the deficit to seven points on several occasions. Patrick Sweeny hit a trey right off the bat to narrow the deficit. However, the Maroon Raiders relied on the dynamic pair of Damani(19 points) and Maurice Williams(19 points), pumping in a combined 13 points that bumped the margin back up to double digits again.

The Golden Hawks displayed a ton of grit and determination down the stretch, with Sean Golden and David Nunez in the zone offensively, each supplying 11 points apiece. Golden drove to the basket on several occasions and threw down monstrous dunks. Nunez maneuvered through a maze of players and finished several layups.

Ultimately, time ran out on River Dell as Dwight Morrow held on for the 66-59 victory. Sean Golden bagged a game-high 20 points, while Liam Hickey and David Nunez added 13.

"We scored a lot, but Dwight Morrow scored more, and Coach(Ron Van Saders) said after the game the defense wasn't there," Liam Hickey stated. "Whether that's changing up the looks we throw at them or flat-out playing harder." "We need to do a better job of containing the dribble."

The Golden Hawks and Maroon Raiders will square off again this season in a trilogy. The stakes are much higher with a first-round showdown in the North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 state tournament at River Dell High School on Thursday, February 21st.

"We're a good offensive scoring team, and the next time we play, Dwight Morrow, if we get into our offense and don't let them pressure us," Liam Hickey noted. "We should be the ones bothering them, pressuring them, and making them uncomfortable." "We can score the ball, and it comes down to playing within ourselves, handling their pressure, rebound, and defense."

River Dell wraps up the 2023-24 regular season this upcoming week with an away game at Cresskill(13-11, 6-2 NJIC Patriot) on Thursday, February 15th, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. then hosting Passaic Valley(11-10, 3-7 Big North Independence) at home on Friday, February 16th at 5:30 p.m.

"We're just looking to win, get hot before the state playoffs, and have 15 wins in the regular season, and that's a big accomplishment," Liam Hickey remarked. "We're playing two good basketball teams this week and going to scout them well and come out and play out hardest and finish the regular season on a positive note."

Liam Hickey, on playing his final regular season games in a Golden Hawks uniform as well as senior group, "I'm trying to go out on a high note and do whatever it takes to help the team win, and that's been scoring the ball, passing rebounding and defense."

"Throughout the season we've had some great wins and tough losses, but we never hung it up." "After a tough loss, we came to practice the next day and realized how we could better and learn from it, and this is a winning group."

"We enjoy playing for each other and, as seniors, trying to lead the younger guys so we can win." "Teaching the younger guys the ropes so they can get familiar with it and keep this a winning program."

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