River Dell varsity boys basketball team survives late run from Westwood for 65-63 win


The River Dell Golden Hawks varsity boys basketball team(2-1, 1-1 Big North Patriot) started the 2021-22 season on the right note defeating Fort Lee 55-50 at River Dell High School.

However, the combination of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Omicron variant forced the team to shut down for over two weeks, five games canceled, and reschedule a game against Westwood. On Thursday, January 6th, the Golden Hawks returned to action but fell to Mahwah 61-49 at Mahwah High School.

River Dell Head Coach Ron Van Saders commented on the lost time and games due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, "It's always hard, and they dealt with it last year." "When they don't pick up a basketball for two weeks, then we go to Mahwah, that is an excellent team. "We still had a couple of days of practice, but not with everyone."

Back on the hardwood court, not even 48 hours later, against a Westwood at Westwood Regional High School in an electric environment with both student sections turning out in full force.

The Golden Hawks displayed no fatigue from the Mahwah game, jumping out to a 17-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. Senior Braden Kreutzer(eight points) erupted for five straight points in the second quarter, knocking down a trifecta followed by a lay-up that extended the River Dell advantage to 22-13.

In the first half, senior Ryan Miles also caught fire from the field, tallying nine points. Milnes and Kreutzer combined to score 16 points. Milnes buried a triple with ten seconds remaining as the Golden Hawks led 31-22 at halftime.

"I played a lot more aggressive than in my first two games, took better shots that I did before and I got more open because the players around me were making shots," Ryan Milnes explained.

Once the third quarter got underway, River Dell maintained the advantage. Leading 37-30, the Cardinals quickly shaved the margin down to 37-35, remaining four minutes.

The Golden Hawks were unable to slow down the tandem of Connor Roche and Robbie Carcich on fire from the perimeter and behind the arc. After combining to tally 17 points in the first half, Carcich dropped in 15 points while Roche netted 10 points. Carcich knocked down a jump shot at the buzzer as River Dell led 51-49.

The Golden Hawks kept their composure in the fourth quarter, bumping the advantage back up to 57-50 at the five-minute mark. Ryan Milnes continued to flourish on the offensive end, sinking a jump shot to increase his point total to 17.

Westwood refused to throw in the white towel, answering with a run to cut the gap to 59-57 with less than three minutes left. Senior Nolan Gilmour(eight points) provided a much-needed spark scoring his eighth point of the game on a lay-in at the two-minute mark.

Netting four points in the first half, senior Hamilton Roth found a rhythm offensively in the second half with nine points, including a critical lay-in that boosted the lead to 63-57 with just under two minutes left.

The Cardinals narrowed the advantage to 63-60, with Robbie Carcich burying a triple with less than a minute on the clock. After calling a couple of timeouts, River Dell inbounded the ball with senior point guard Colin Quinn dishing the ball to Ryan Milnes.

Catching the pass along the right side of the baseline, Milnes quickly dribbled the ball toward the basket and, in spectacular fashion, elevated up for the lay-up off glass for his game-high 19 points.

Westwood refused to back down as Edwin Fakik canned a trey with 26 seconds left. The Golden Hawks had an opportunity to seal the victory with senior Matt Brunner at the foul line and two shots, but Brunner ended up missing both shots.

Milking the clock down to the final seconds, the Cardinals had a couple of opportunities to win the game on long-distance shots, including a wide-open look at the basket. Still, both shots clanked off the rim as River Dell emerged victorious in thrilling fashion 65-63.

The Golden Hawk's defense clamped down defensively in the fourth quarter, limiting the duo of Connor Roche(30 points) and Robbie Carcich(20 points) to eight combined points in the quarter.

Head Coach Ron Van Saders on the game, "It was a good win for us, dealt with some adversity after the loss against Mahwah and we made a lot of key buckets late and lucky enough to hold on." "We have a lot of options on offense and had seven people score at least three to four points."

"Ryan(Milnes) was very good in one-on-one situations and got a couple of buckets in the second half where we would run some stuff for somebody else and then we got him in the post." "He is a very good mid-range jump shooter and finds different ways to score and made the plays that was needed."

Ryan Miles on the win, "Last year we lost on a buzzer-beater at Westwood and was having déjà vu so when the kid missed the shot, I was relieved."

Hamilton Roth on the victory, "I was so relieved and watched that ball and hoped it did not go in." "It was really great, coming back after being shut down for a week and then the Mahwah loss we wanted this game." We had students and friends that came out and felt like a home game.

Next up for the Golden Hawks is match-up vs. Dwight Morrow on Tuesday, January 11th, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. at River Dell High School. After the Dwight Morrow game, River Dell plays at Ramsey on Thursday, January 14th, and Colonia on Saturday, January 16th.

Head Coach Ron Van Saders on this week's upcoming games, "Anytime we play at home we feel that we should win, Thursday is a big game because Ramsey is in the league and if we split to have any shot to win the league." "Colonia is a very good Group 3 school from Union County and it's a chance for us to step outside of the county and prove ourselves against excellent competition."

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