River Dell varsity boys basketball team defeats Wayne Hills in OT thriller in the first round of North 1, Group 3 Tournament


The River Dell Golden Hawks varsity boys basketball team (15-10, 3-5 Big North Patriot) struggled down the final stretch of the regular season, dropping three games in a row, including a 59-39 loss to Paramus in the 2021-22 regular-season finale.

Looking to right the ship, the Golden Hawks squared off against Wayne Hills (13-15) in the first round of the North 1, Group 3 Tournament at River Dell High School in front of an overflow and boisterous home crowd.

After the Patriots scored the game's first points, River Dell surged back with a 5-0 run. By the time the quarter ended, the Golden Hawks had led 9-8.

Braden Kreutzer, on the first quarter, "We knew going into the game it was going to be low scoring because that's what Wayne Hills does; they like to play good defense and minimize shots." "We had to make sure going in we valued each possession and take good shots."

In the second quarter, River Dell extended the advantage to 13-8 on an emphatic one-handed slam dunk by Hamilton Roth. However, Wayne Hills answered with a 6-0 spurt and relied on the offense of James Adamo (15 points), tallying 10 points in the quarter. The Golden Hawks managed to reclaim the advantage 19-18 at halftime.

The back-and-forth action continued in the third quarter, with Wayne Hills re-taking the lead 29-25 at the five-minute mark. In the quarter, Braden Kreutzer and Ryan Milnes supplied the bulk of the offense for River Dell, dropping in 11 of the team's 13 points. By the end of the period, the Patriots were up 32-31.

Once the fourth quarter got underway, the Golden Hawks jumped back in front briefly 34-33 on a tip-in shot by Hamilton Roth. River Dell players crashed the boards on a missed shot and getting second-chance opportunities.

The lead would be short-lived as Wayne Hills surged back with a 7-0 run. Zach Muller netted eight of his 12 points on the night. Andre Macarenes contributed to the Patriot's offensive arsenal and chalked up 13 of his 17 points in the second half.

In desperate need to halt the Patriot's momentum, River Dell's tandem of Matt Brunner and Hamilton Roth executed a perfect give-and-go pass that led to Roth elevating for a lay-in-off glass.

Wayne Hills bumped their lead back to 43-36 with a little over a minute left on Zach Muller converting a three-point play after a fast-break lay-up.

Appearing as the 2021-22 season and six seniors might be over, Braden Kreutzer came to the rescue. Burying three trifectas in a row, including one that tied the game up at 45-45 with nine seconds remaining, that sent the student section and rest of the home crowd into a wild frenzy and overtime.

"It was just confidence and unselfishness," Braden Kreutzer explained. "We just knew what we were going to do on the play." Hamilton Roth got the rebound and got the ball to Ryan Milnes, and we went down the court, and Ryan made a great pass to me, and I made the shot. I have worked hard and focused more on three-pointers.

In the extra session, Ryan Milnes turned to put the team on his back. Milnes accounted for all seven Golden Hawks points, including driving to the rim with less than a minute for a spectacular left-handed shot off the glass and converting a three-point play that put River Dell up 51-50.

"Ryan (Milnes) was a huge part of the game and the main guy all season," Braden Kreutzer described. "We all knew it was crunch time for Ryan to make a play."

However, the Patriots still had ample time to win the game in the closing seconds, but James Adamo missed a pair of free throws. After the second free throw, the ball landed out of bounds on a wild scramble.

Wayne Hills had one last shot at winning, but a desperation jumper landed well short of the basket. Ryan Milnes heaved the ball down the court as the buzzer sounded as joyous players, coaches and fans celebrated the victory. Braden Kreutzer poured in 18 points, Ryan Milnes delivered 16 points, and Hamilton Roth added 10 points.

"Everyone was holding their breathe when the kid was shooting the free throws and waiting to see what happened even after the rebound when the ball got knocked out of bounds," Braden Kreutzer noted. "Hamilton Roth tipped the jump shot in the corner and Ryan (Milnes) made a good play throwing the ball down the court."

The Golden Hawks have a re-match with Paramus (14-12) in the North 1, Group 3 Quarterfinals on Thursday, March 3rd at River Dell High School, with tip-off set for 5 p.m.

"It's going to come down to the same thing with sticking to the game plan and making their guys make tough contested shots on every play," Braden Kreutzer stated.

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