River Dell Varsity Boys Basketball Team shows resilience despite a narrow loss to Dwight Morrow in the First Round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Tournament


The River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Boys Basketball Team(15-10, 7-3 Big North Patriot) squared off against the Dwight Morrow Maroon Raiders(16-11, 5-3 Big North American) in the First Round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Tournament at River Dell High School in Oradell, New Jersey.

River Dell and Dwight Morrow were concluding a trilogy matchup with the Maroon Raiders swiping a pair of games, including a 66-59 victory in the Bergen Invitational Tournament Semifinals at Saint Joseph Regional High School in Montvale, New Jersey.

Golden Hawks Liam Hickey on the message from Head Coach Ron Van Saders heading into the playoff game against the Maroon Raiders, "He gave a very good speech in the locker room and said don't let this be your last game." "You want to compete against the best and this what you play for." "If you're a competitor you got out there and do what you need to whether rebound the ball and play good defense."

River Dell came out with plenty of intensity, jumping out to an early 8-4 lead in the first quarter. Dwight Morrow responded with a run to jump in front 10-8. The Golden Hawks answered with a 5-0 spurt to reclaim the advantage. Liam Hickey is clicking on all cylinders from the opening tap, notching nine points for River Dell.

The Maroon Raiders ignited a rebuttal with a 5-0 blitz to take a 15-13 lead at the end of the period. Maurice Williams is unstoppable on the offensive end, tallying 12 points.

"We had seen them twice before and knew they were going to come out with full court pressure and crash the offensive glass," Liam Hickey explained. "I just tried to stay locked in the game, got a good warm-up and made my shots felt right and prepared for the game."

In the second quarter, Dwight Morrow extended the lead to six points. Maurice Williams continues to be a formidable force for the Marron Raiders, dropping 11 additional points.

With time winding down in the period, Liam Hickey caught a pass in the offensive zone then, dribbled the ball a couple of times, and, under heavy defensive pressure, hoisted a no-look high-arching shot that incredibly banked off glass at the buzzer as the Golden Hawks closed the gap to 29-26 at intermission. Hickey was the leading scorer for River Dell in the first half with 16 points.

"I was just trying to get the team into the locker room on a positive note at halftime," Liam Hickey described. "That was definitely a big shot and just kind of chucked it there." "I had a similar shot at halfcourt against North Bergen at the end of the game and the ball happened to go in and then pop out of the basket and we would have won but ended up losing the game and I got the luck back here."

Liam Hickey, on the halftime speech from Head Coach Ron Van Saders, said, "The message from the coach was come out here and give it all in the last 16 minutes." "This could be the last time you put that jersey on, and you got to give it your all and play your hearts out like we have played the whole season."

Once the third quarter got underway, Dwight Morrow bumped the margin up to five points a couple of times as the Marron Raiders fed off their bread and butter on offense, with Maurice Williams supplying eight points.

The Golden Hawks displayed tenacity as Sean Golden heated up, delivering seven points, including dribbling the length of the court, then maneuvering his way past the defense, putting the brakes on in the low post, and hitting a short jumper off the glass right before the buzzer sounded that trimmed the deficit to 41-39.

"We hung in there with them, and it was back and forth as they hit their shots and so did, we," Liam Hickey noted.

In the fourth quarter, River Dell carried over the late energy in the third quarter into the final frame. Sean Golden caught a pass in the low block and then positioned himself in a perfect spot to flip a shot off the glass, tying the game up at 41-41 at the seven-minute mark.

The Golden Hawks trailed 43-41 with six and half minutes remaining when David Nunez drained a trifecta. River Dell led 49-46, but Dwight Morrow countered with a run to reclaim the advantage at 50-49 with less than three minutes to go.

Down 53-49 with a minute and a half left, the Golden Hawks responded with Aditya Pandya catching a dime from Liam Hickey in the paint. Then Pandya skillfully maintained his balance, flicking a spectacular left-handed layup off the glass.

However, the Maroon Raiders relied on their star player of the game, Maurice Williams, driving baseline towards the rim and converting a layup off the glass as Williams absorbed the contact and finished off a three-point play that widened the lead to 56-51 with 51 seconds remaining.

River Dell exhibiting grit and determination, answered back as David Nunez put on the dazzling ball moves, then drove with authority into the lane and heaved a shot high off the glass as he drew the contact and knocked down the free throw to slice the deficit to 56-54 with 37 secs left.

The thrilling back-and-forth action ensued as Maroon Raiders Damani Williams buried a pair of free throws to boost the lead to 58-54, only to see the Golden Hawks break a full-court press. Off a missed shot, Aditya Pandya grabbed an offensive rebound and hit the turnaround putback shot in the low post as River Dell pulled to within 58-56 with 23 seconds left.

After Maurice Williams hit one of two free throws, the Golden Hawks moved the ball into the offensive end and worked the ball around the perimeter. David Nunez attempted a three-point shot, but the ball clanged off the front of the bucket.

Dwight Morrow secured the offensive board and then quickly pushed the ball up the court in transition, with Terrell Griffiths dishing the rock to Maurice Williams and Williams capping off a dominant 38-point performance by driving to the rack and releasing a shot while getting knocked down that hitting nothing but a net that sealed the Maroon Raiders 61-56 win thus ending River Dell's 2023-24 season.

Liam Hickey poured in a game-high 20 points for the Golden Hawks, while Sean Golden provided 16 points, and Aditya Pandya chipped in with 10 points.

"My initial reaction was wow and how quickly it went," Liam Hickey noted. "You definitely feel good about the positive memories on and off the court with your teammates." "Reflecting back on the season we had 15 wins which is pretty impressive."

"At the end of the day you think what could have happened and done differently." "You just have to sit back and appreciate all that you have done and positive moments and good games with your teammates."

Liam Hickey, thanks for the support from the River Dell High School athletic department, fans, and community. "I saw Mr. (Denis) Nelson after the game, and he said great season, buddy and I'm proud of you." "That shows you how River Dell Athletics is and how people care and support us."

"Mr. (Sam) Halabi was in the lobby and we talked for a while." "I would like to thank Mr. (Jack) and Mrs. (Julianne) Joyce-Brunner and Mr. (John)Milnes." "The coaches have been there for my whole career."

"The fans are incredible every time you hit a shot and the gym goes crazy and always there." "I would do the same for the football games and how the River Dell Athletics and community really care about each other and support each other throughout the ups and downs."

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