The River Dell Golden Hawks Varsity Boys Basketball Team (20-6) hosted the Tenafly Tigers (11-12) in the first round of the North Jersey Section 1, Group 3 Tournament at River Dell High School in Oradell, New Jersey, and gym at maximum capacity and filled with plenty of energy mainly from the River Dell student section.
Matt Kelleher on the energy and passion from the home crowd, “I just remember last year watching the state game and how electrifying it was in the gym. I didn’t get into the game, so I was waiting for this year to have a chance to play in a state game and in front of all those people who come out.”
“It completely changes the game when we have the student section and everyone’s feeding off the energy. Every time you have big stop you have the student section rumbling and gym going crazy. It brings a momentum switch that you can’t have sometimes in an away game. Having your friends and representing the school is the best.”
River Dell jumped out to a 10-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. Hamilton Roth led the way notching five points, while Matt Kelleher and Sean Golden contributed the remaining points.
In the second quarter, the Golden Hawks outscored Tenafly 10-9, with Matt Kelleher totaling eight points. Kelleher consistently attacked the basket for layups. River Dell went into the halftime break up 20-14.
“Teams know especially later in the year how many threes I have hit this season, so it’s opened so many opportunities for me to drive to the hoop because I’m more than a shooter, Matt Kelleher explained. I can get inside and feel I’m crafty when I get underneath there and being able to finish in different way.”
“When teams are running out on me every single time, I catch the ball and they’re yelling shooter and always looking to find it. So if I got the ability to get inside it’s going to make it so much harder guard then if they backup I’m going to shoot it.”
Matt Kelleher on the message from Head Coach Ron Van Saders at halftime, “He basically told us not to be our last game and we want to get to that 20-win mark which not a lot of teams in River Dell history has ever done. He just kept saying let’s have one more practice and put those jerseys on one more time.”
In the third quarter, the Golden Hawks fed off the halftime message with Hamilton Roth totaling seven points, along with Matt Kelleher, Andrew Lezaja, and Sean Golden chipping in as River Dell boosted their advantage to 37-23 at the end of the period.
Once the fourth quarter got underway, the Golden Hawks expanded the margin further. Still, the Tigers kept clawing back, with Aidan McGinty (15 points), Reilly Benowitz(12 points), and Yuvcil Guttman(8 points) combining to score 17 points to keep Tenalfy in the contest.