River Dell varsity boys basketball team holds off late charge to beat Fort Lee 55-50 in season opener


Heading into the 2021-22 regular-season opener against the Fort Lee Bridgemen at River Dell High School, River Dell Golden Hawks varsity boys' basketball head coach Ron Van Saders commented on this season's roster and pre-season training.

"The kids are working hard and very in tune with each other and get along well." "They have been working hard and scrimmaging pretty well." We don't have a tremendous amount of experience back, but we have a lot of kids that put in a ton of work over the summer.

"This group collectively has put in more work than any other group we've had in sheer numbers in the off-season." Hopefully, the work they've put in the off-season, pre-season, and last two and half weeks will pay off on Friday night."

"We had two players that played a lot with the varsity team last year in junior Hamilton Roth and senior Colin Quinn." "Colin will be our point guard, but the real focus is going to be from four other guys as well as our seniors Matt Brunner, Braden Kreutzer, Ryan Milnes, and Ryan Gillies." "All those guys put in a ton of work and Ryan Gillies, Nolan Gilmour, and Ryan Gillies being the only football players."

"We have two other juniors vying for some minutes in Matt Kelleher and Andrew Lezaja." "There is a bunch of them but we're comfortable with putting seven to eight guys on the floor every night but might vary from game to game."

"We want to be able to defend, run our offense, and we have some skilled players this year." "The key for us coaches and players this year is defending and rebounding." We feel that we have a lot of offensive skills and hopefully translates into games." Every year, the basic goal is to win the league and get to the Bergen County Tournament, and we felt snubbed two years ago when we had a good run and tried to get one or two home games in the state playoffs.

In front of a very enthusiastic and passionate home crowd, the River Dell started on a solid note against Fort Lee in the first quarter. Senior Braden Kreutzer canning a pair of trifectas as the Golden Hawks led 10-8 at the end of the quarter.

"River Dell has such a great fan base in terms of the student body, and they show up the events," Head Coach Ron Van Saders explained. "Last year, we didn't have that with the kids normally at the basketball games, especially Friday night games are very crowded." It's the first time in two years where the kids and players can experience it.

A back-and-forth game for the first couple of minutes in the second quarter, the Bridgemen went on a 5-0 run to jump ahead 20-16. When the buzzer hit signaling halftime Fort Lee was up 23-18.

Once the third quarter got underway, Fort Lee extended the advantage to 26-20. However, the Golden Hawks answered back with a 6-0 spurt. Braden Kreutzer buried a triple, followed by Matt Brunner draining a trey.

Fort Lee countered that response with a 5-0 run, with sophomore guard Devin Jang knocking down a three and draining a pair of free throws.

With less than four minutes left, River Dell roared back with a 6-0 run to reclaim the advantage. The Golden Hawks managed to find success driving into the paint for lay-ups and crash the offensive glass. Heading into the final quarter, River Dell held a 38-35 lead.

The Golden Hawks blasted out of the gate in the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run. On fire from beyond the arc, Braden Kreutzer sank his fourth triple of the night. Hamilton Roth contributed four points during the run.

Fort Lee finally broke a four-minute scoreless streak from junior guard Isiah Stang on a trifecta. River Dell appeared to be in complete control up 50-40 with a little over a minute remaining.

However, the Bridgemen refused to throw in the white towel. Devin Jang and Isiah Stang buried treys to narrow the gap to 52-48 with less than 30 seconds left.

Fort Lee applied a stifling full-court press defense, but the Golden Hawks managed to break and dribbled the ball across midcourt as the Bridgemen had no other choice but to commit fouls. River Dell sealed the 55-50, draining three out of four free throws.

Braden Kreutzer poured in game-high 22 points, Hamilton Roth totaled 12 points, and Matt Brunner added 11 points.

Head Coach Ron Vaders on the win, "The kids played well in the second half, the first half was a little sluggish, and in the then the third and beginning of the fourth we pushed the lead, and we were able to hold on at the end." "Braden (Kreutzer) did a nice job of shooting the basketball and excellent from the free-throw line." He is aggressive, likes to shoot the ball, and takes good shots.

"Matt(Brunner) scored all his 11 points in the second half so that was good and Hamilton(Roth) is a pretty steady scorer for us and rebounded the ball."

Braden Kreutzer on the victory, "It was a great win; a lot of the guys have been looking forward to this night our entire lives." "We have been playing together for a bunch of years." We had a couple of late runs, and we're able to close it out." We have many kids who can make shots and trust to step in and get to the (free-throw) line at the end of the game.

"We were confident all week; it's been two years since we had fans in the gym which is important to us." "I feel like our fans are a big part of the way we play at home and getting a lot of energy," I remember my freshman and sophomore years sitting in the stands for these types of games and being able to play in one of them was an amazing feeling.

River Dell returns to action on Tuesday, December 21st, when they face off against Pascack Valley at Pascack Valley High School, with tip-off set for 4 p.m.

"They're very well-coached and scout well," Head Coach Ron Van Saders noted. "We're not as familiar with their personnel but familiar on film and haven't seen them live." The game is at four o'clock, so you don't know how much energy will be in the gym and terms of fans, but we got to play through that.

Braden Kreutzer, on the upcoming match-up against Pascack Valley, "The Pascack Valley game is going to be important; they're always good and they know what we're going to do so we have to change what we do and figure it out." After this game, we have a six-day layoff and want to go into the Christmas tournament 2-0.

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