River Dell varsity boys basketball team extends winning streak to eight games with an overtime win over Westwood
Since a January 18th loss to Pascack Hills, the River Dell varsity boys basketball team was on a tear, winning seven in a row, including a 49-36 victory over Midland Park last weekend in the first round of the Bergen County Tournament.
Aiming for an eighth consecutive win would not come easy for the Golden Hawks as they were facing off against Westwood (5-9, 0-5 Big North Patriot) for a second time this season in a pivotal Big North Patriot league game. The teams' last meeting was on January 8th; River Dell won 65-63.
With an early 4 p.m. afternoon tip-off in the Upper Gym at River Dell High School, the Cardinals had the upper hand from the tip-off. Westwood raced out to a 12-1 advantage four and half minutes into the game.
The Golden Hawks had difficulty pushing the ball across midcourt due to a stifling full-court press defense that led to turnovers and transition points for Westwood.
As the quarter progressed, the Cardinals kept building the margin up. By the time the quarter ended, River Dell was down 20-6. Braden Kreutzer on the first quarter, "That was pretty frustrating, the past seven to eight games we have been playing great basketball." "We had that midseason stride, the problems earlier in the year and seemed to be going away."
"We were having trouble with their pressure, and they jumped on us 8-1." "Coach (Ron) Van Saders called a timeout, we had a rough start with the early time, and we knew that we had to come out with the energy but it just didn't happen."
Moving to the second quarter, Westwood padded their lead to 25-9 with three and half minutes remaining. However, the Golden Hawks offense started to gain some much-needed rhythm in the last minute and a half of action ending the first half on a 7-0 run to trim the deficit to 27-16.
"We all got into the locker room, Coach Van Saders came in, and he didn't yell at us," Braden Kreutzer described. "We all knew what the problem was and had to react." They wanted it more in the first half, and we came out flat.
The River Dell offense continued to click on all cylinders turning the run into a 10-0 run to narrow the margin down to 29-21 with less than six minutes left.
The Cardinals ignited a rebuttal to bump the lead back to 35-21 with less than two minutes to go. By the time the period ended, the Golden Hawks were trailing 37-26.
The game's atmosphere changed drastically in the fourth quarter as the River Dell defense dialed up the defensive intensity. The Golden Hawks defense held Westwood without a point for over four minutes of action that spilled over from the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the Golden Hawks found their range from behind the arc as Braden Kreutzer and Ryan Miles knocked down back-to-back trifectas to reduce the Cardinals' advantage to 39-36 at the four and half minute stage.
River Dell trailed 40-37 with two minutes in change remaining, displaying patience by spreading the ball around the perimeter before Braden Kreutzer found just enough open space to rise into the air and bury a triple that tied the game up.
"It felt good to be able to make some shots in the second half," Braden Kreutzer explained. "The first half slumps went away, and basketball is a game of runs." It was our turn to go on a run, and we did. We could keep that to a minimum when they started to go on a run.
"I really didn't have the best shooting game in the first half, I was missing some easy one, but I knew I couldn't lose confidence." "I just had to keep shooting so when I got the ball open right on the wing, I just let it fly and it went in."
With 45 seconds remaining, Colin Quinn drained a pair of free throws to put the Golden Hawks up 42-40 for and first time in the game. However, Westwood answered back as Connor Roche drove to the rim for a left-handed lay-in with 30 seconds left and ended up getting fouled but missed the free throw.
Both teams had opportunities in the waning seconds to win the game but missed shots as the game headed to overtime tied at 42-42. Hamilton Roth put River Dell back in the lead, hitting a deep jump shot at the three-minute mark.
The scoring output went ice cold for the next two and half minutes as there were several missed shots on both sides. A critical sequence occurred with less than a minute remaining as the Golden Hawks inbounded the ball.
Matt Brunner tossed a perfect two-handed pass over the top of the Cardinals defense to Ryan Milnes, who caught the ball and elevated up for the lay-in to increase the lead to 46-42.
Westwood still had ample time to cut into the lead but missed shots that led to trips to the foul line for River Dell. Matt Brunner and Colin Quinn sank a free throw to 48-43. The Cardinals connected on a three at the buzzer as the Golden Hawks emerged victorious 49-45 and won their eighth straight game. Ryan Milnes finished with 15 points, while Braden Kreutzer added 13 points.
Braden Kreutzer on the win, "It feels great beating Westwood at home again, a rivalry game and we all wanted to win it really bad." "We were able to keep our win streak alive and played with real heart and showed that we will do whatever it takes to win."
"Hamilton's shot was huge; he is a great shooter, and I trust him 100 percent taking that shot." "Ryan (Milnes) is a three-level threat, and he can hit pull-up jumpers from anywhere on the floor and not guardable.
River Dell (11-4, 2-3 Big North Patriot) returns to action on Saturday, February 5th against Bergen Catholic(11-6) in the Bergen County Jamboree Round of 16 at Tenafly High School, with tip-off set for 4:15 p.m.
On the upcoming game against Bergen Catholic, Braden Kreutzer said, "Nothing changes and we're going in there into win." "It's going to be a big game and we want to show that we can hang around with those kids."