River Dell varsity girls basketball team keeps undefeated record intact in 41-28 win over Westwood


Fresh off a dominating 72-32 win over Cliffside Park at River Dell that extended their unbeaten record at 10-0, the River Dell Golden Hawks varsity girls basketball team (4-0 Big North Patriot) returned to the hardwood court.

The Golden Hawks faced a significant test in a Big North Patriot showdown against rival Westwood (9-3, 3-1 Big North Patriot) at Westwood Regional High School.

Early in the first quarter, the Golden Hawks stifling full-court press defense led to Westwood committing turnovers, thus resulting in fast-break and transition points. When the quarter ended, River Dell held a 12-6 lead.

"The girls were excited about the game in the first place but I told them to set the tone pretty quickly and we got a couple of steals and they had to burn a timeout," River Dell Head Coach Lindsay Steffner explained.

Tallying four points in the first quarter, River Dell senior Kayla DePol managed to drive strong to the rim with six-minutes remaining and ended up getting fouled as she converted the lay-up DePol sank the free throw to widen the Golden Hawks advantage to 17-7.

"Kayla(DePol) is one of the most athletic people, she got a little banged up at practice but such a competitor there was really no doubt in my mind she'd be ready to play." "When she gets into the game mode there you really can't slow her down."

However, the Cardinals ignited a rebuttal with a run to close within 18-13 with four and half minutes left. Westwood was able to dart through holes in the lane for lay-ups. Cameilla Brown(12 points) sparked the offense dropping in eight points. 

Without a point for almost four minutes, Golden Hawks senior Sarah Vanderbeck stemmed the Cardinals surge, burying a corner triple. "I have been trying to get Sarah to shoot the ball a lot more and glad she listened, and she was able to get to the rim today and show versatile she is," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner noted.

Westwood answered back with four consecutive points in a row to narrow the margin. Junior Isabella Gilmour added a caveat of trips to the free-throw line, netting five points. In the last 50 seconds of the second quarter, Gilmour stepped up in the clutch draining four free throws as the Golden Hawks led 25-17 at halftime.

"I have been working on my free-throws a lot more recently; I used not to make them and know how big free-throws are," Isabella Gilmour described. "Every time I get to the line, I want to help my team out and make those fouls count and make the shot." I was so excited and needed it because they were coming back, but those shots solidified the lead going into the half.

Saddled with foul trouble in the first half, junior Lily Crowder displayed sheer will and determination in the second half. Crowder managed to pound the ball into the paint and low-post, scoring eight of her game-high 11 points. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Golden Hawks were up 29-23.

"It was a tough game, the beginning we were struggling with foul trouble, and I didn't come back until the second half," Lily Crowder noted. "It was close game, and Coach (Lindsay Steffner) told us what we had on the line and made all us motivated."

Head Coach Lindsay Steffner on the low post play of the team, "I wanted to set the tone inside and with the offense cutting we were missing some easy ones but wanted to get a one on one in the post and go with the match-up we wanted to get high percentage shots." "We were missing some outside shots and the flow of the offense was off and tried to settle them down and Lily(Crowder) did a job of finishing at that point."

River Dell held a slim lead in the fourth quarter, but critical buckets from Lily Crowder and Isabella Gilmour combined with Kayla DePol sinking a pair of free throws expanded the advantage to 35-27. Ari Rodriguez supplied five points off the bench, including a fast-break lay-up that increased the lead to 37-27 at the five- and half-minute mark.

On the flip side, the Golden Hawk's defense cranked up the defensive intensity, wreaking havoc as the Westwood offense struggled to find open looks at the basket and drive into the lane.

Eventually, River Dell coasted to the 41-28 win and registered their tenth straight win. Isabella Gilmour also finished with 10 points, while Kayla DePol added nine points.

Head Coach Lindsay Steffner on the win, "That's what we hang our hat one, our defense leads to transition offense." "We yielded 28 points against a very talent Westwood group and I'm very pleased with the energy, effort and attention to detail for all 32 minutes."

"Kayla (DePol) not just had nine points but 14 rebounds and nine steals." "Every time I go to the bench, I'm very proud of the girls and it's not an easy position to be in and putting them in positions like that they had to perform, and they did whether it was energy, hustle and scrappiness." "To have 8, 9 and 10 people off the bench I'm really lucky this year."

The Golden Hawks return to action on Tuesday, January 25th at Ridgefield Park with tip-off set for 7 p.m. "Ridgefield Park traditionally plays a 1-3-1 zone, which will be different, and I have to watch the film on them," Head Coach Lindsay Steffner mentioned. "We're playing good basketball right now, and the defense will continue to play better and hope to keep running in transition."

Isabella Gilmour on the upcoming schedule, "We're excited, we take it one practice at a time, and on Monday, we will focus on Ridgefield Park." "I'm excited to play with everyone, we play great together, and it doesn't matter home or away." A great experience; we're having a great season right now and working in our favor and excited for the upcoming week.

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