River Dell Varsity Girls Basketball Team fueled by Alexa DePol's 34 points cruise to NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 First Round Tournament win over Montville


The River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Girls Basketball Team(17-7, 8-2 Big North Patriot), seeded fourth, hosted the 13th seed Montville Mustangs(10-14, 3-7 NJAC-American) in the First Round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Tournament at River Dell High School in Oradell, New Jersey.

In the pre-game message to the team, River Dell Head Coach Lindsay Steffner said, "I kept telling them you have to believe in yourselves, and this group has the ability to do a lot of damage right and keep doing the things that are in our control." "I said you can't control the referees and some shots here and there, but you can control your defensive energy, communication, attitude, and hustle." "Every possession matters right now; it's the tournament, and every team is good, and we must lock in on defense and offense."

River Dell wrapped up the 2023-24 regular season with a convincing 52-25 victory over Indian Hills at Indian Hills High School in Oakland, New Jersey. Eleven players got into the scoring column, led by Dalia Interiano's game-high 14 points.

The Golden Hawks and Montville put on a scoring clinic in the first quarter. Both teams sizzled from behind the arc as they combined to knock down 11 three-pointers.

River Dell's Sofia Sanchez drained a pair of trifectas, with Morgan Sconza adding a triple that propelled the Golden Hawks to a 17-10 advantage with three and a half minutes remaining. Meanwhile, Kayla DePol is in the zone on the offensive end, tallying eight points.

However, the Mustangs responded with an emphatic run to close the period with an 11-0 blitz to take a 26-22 lead. Montville, led by Sophia Kalliaras, scored 11 points, including hitting three treys.

Early into the second quarter, River Dell answered with a 5-0 spurt to reclaim the lead at 27-26. Alexa DePol picked up where she left off in the first quarter in scoring by dropping 12 points. DePol unleashed an offensive arsenal by slashing to the basket for layups, knocking down jump shots from the perimeter, and crashing the offensive glass for putback shots.

The slowing down enabled the Golden Hawks' defense to exhibit tenacious defense on the perimeter and inside the lane, forcing the Mustangs into repeatedly missing layups and jump shots. River Dell is able to widen their lead to as many as seven points before settling for a 42-38 advantage at halftime.

"Alexa really showcased her skills, and she wanted the ball in her hands and was going the extra step to get the ball," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner explained. "She had the mindset to go get the offensive rebounds and going to the rim and being aggressive."

"We knew there wasn't a great matchup inside the post and that was the weak link and Alexa could exploit some of those matchups." "When Montville went to a zone and changed up a thing or two on us that's when Alexa got a little bit more open."

"Credit to Montville as they tried to slow things down but it's hard when you have someone like Alexa's athletic ability and have to pick and choose who you're going to slow down." "When Montville went to a smaller lineup that allowed Alexa to get her shot up and over and changed the defense a little bit and a chess match with the pace of the game overwhelmingly fast."

Head Coach Lindsay Steffner on the halftime vibe: "I wanted to give them as much of a break as possible." "Purposely, I gave them time to chit chat and time off their heels because we're not used to playing at that pace." "My message to them was they're doing a great job on offense, keeping it inside, and making Montville really defend on longer possessions and wanting to run a little bit more clock on offense if we could."

River Dell is breathing a massive sigh of relief with Alexa DePol exiting the game in the second quarter with an apparent injury that proved to be a minor issue. "Alexa ended up with a cramp because the pace was so fast," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner described." "She expended so much energy but got hydrated and was good to go."

Once the third quarter commenced, Montville ignited a rebuttal and jumped back in front 48-46. The Golden Hawks countered with a 7-0 run. Sofia Sanchez was scalding from downtown, knocking down her fourth pearl, putting River Dell ahead 50-48 with three and a half minutes left.

Dalia Interiano followed Sanchez one minute later, sinking a triple that made it 53-48. Alexa DePol, showing no ill effects of a cramp, dropped six additional points as the Golden Hawks were up 57-51 entering the fourth quarter.

"We were starting to figure out Montville defensively a little bit more and we needed to help out and I put Morgan(Sconza) and Kasey(Ziegler) in control of that," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner noted. "Every time they needed to get off their player and help out and when Jackie Cinella and Julianna O'Dowd started going to the rim Morgan and Kasey did a really good job of helping Dalia and Alexa on those matchups."

River Dell methodically widened the gap in the fourth quarter as time progressed. The Golden Hawks consistently got out on the fast break, driving to the basket for layups and pounding the offensive boards that led to stick-back shots. River Dell bumped the margin to double digits at 66-55 with four and a half minutes remaining.

Alex DePol capped off a phenomenal 34-point offensive performance, supplying eight points. The Golden Hawks coast to the 74-60 win over the Mustangs. Sofia Sanchez totaled 18 points, while Dalia Interiano added 11 points.

"There was excellent energy in the locker room, and very happy for Sofia(Sanchez) with a double-double," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner said. "We recognized some individual performances, but it's important to recognize everyone and happy to have that type of game." "We talked about the overall team dynamic, and what we did as a team as far as defense, then we just celebrated."

"It was great to play in front of that crowd and little kids wearing River Dell t-shirts and we had people giving away t-shirts which is fun and really good atmosphere."

The Golden Hawks return to the hardwood court on Tuesday, February 27th, in the Quarterfinals of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Tournament, facing fifth seed Northern Valley Demarest(20-7, 7-3 Big North National) at River Dell High School with tip-off slated for 6 p.m.

"Demarest plays in a tough league and every game they played was an aggressive matchup," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner remarked. "They're going to be ready for a fight and this isn't anything new for them." "It's just a matter of us needing to play solid defense and score the way we did tonight and there's not too many teams that can stop us."

"Everyone is playing good basketball; every possession matters and we're going to be ready to give Demarest a good game," "We worked hard to get the power points so we can play in front of our crowd again."

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