Heading into Thursday’s NJIC Boys Basketball Tournament championship game vs. Paterson Charter (22-4) at Secaucus High School, Saddle River Day (21-3) had a lot riding on the line. A 38-game undefeated winning streak against NJIC opponents that dated back to February of 2018 with the Lions being the last team to defeat the Rebels. Furthermore, the opportunity to win back-to-back NJIC Tournament titles.
Relying heavily on the three-point shot, Saddle River Day knocked down eight of them in Monday’s 77-64 semifinal win over Dwight-Englewood. In the first half against Paterson Charter, the Rebels came very close to tying that mark by canning seven trifectas. Trailing 18-16 in the second quarter, Saddle River Day went on a 7-0 run. Senior Connor Cyran scored 12 of his game high 23 points as the Rebels held a 32-23 halftime advantage.
“It’s the mentality we had going in, I came in ready and locked to play and win for my teammates,” said Connor Cyran. “We have people capable of putting the ball in the hoop whether inside or outside and works around the cylinder all game. I feel like we are one of the best shooting teams in Bergen County and sure my coach will back me up on that.”
From the very onset of the third quarter, Saddle River Day caught fire from beyond the arc burying three consecutive triples to boost the advantage to 42-25 at the six-minute mark. The Rebels kept on pushing the pace with transition and fats break points that led to a commanding 61-39 margin at the end of the quarter.
“I feel when we run our stuff and get downhill, in gaps and move the ball and it’s not your selfish basketball we can hit a lot of shots,” said Saddle River Day Head Coach Anthony Gallo. “We went up against Ramsey in the county tournament and hit 17 threes, so we are definitely capable of making shots and it’s just how well we can execute our offensive game plan.”
Tallying six points in the first half, Junior, Sebastian Giannotti, lit up the score sheet in the second half totaling 17 points including 12 points in the fourth quarter as the Rebels cruised to the 82-54 win and extended undefeated NJIC winning streak to 39 games in a row. Saddle River Day drained a total of 14 three-pointers in the contest. Sadiki Miller led Paterson Charter in scoring with 18 points.
“This is my last year here and to win it back-to-back, to go 16-0 in the league three out of four years and have two opportunities at this was just an amazing experience,” said Connor Cyran. “Our last loss being against the, at their place in 2018 and I was a sophomore and we had the game in our grasp and hands and in final two minutes fell away from us. To come back and win against them in a championship game is just a great feeling.”
“Even the younger guys who have the experience and know what to expect and getting into. I remember my freshman year being on the bench and losing two heartbreakers, one in the county game on a buzzer-beater and in the state tournament also on a buzzer-beater. We were able to come together, jell as a team, and progressed to where we are. Coach Gallo puts together a great game plan before every game, gives us the right scouting and what to know and prepares us for us to expect when we got out there and no surprises ever.”
Head Coach Anthony Gallo on Cyran and winning the tournament title, “I was happy for him, got it going tonight and he has been a staple for us all year and his senior year. Everyone stepped up tonight and really cool to watch. We came out and executed our game plan, played them tough and we knew they were good on the ball. We attacked the gaps, stepping in and getting rebounds and our good defense led to transitions and a lot of open three’s.”
“I saw a stat on Twitter we were 38-0 vs. NJIC opponents dating back to our last opponent Paterson Charter. They beat us in a cross-over match-up two years ago and kind of stuck with us a little bit and we were happy to get some payback. I don’t bring up that silliness with our kids, it was in the back of my mind and happy to come here and knock off one of those NJIC opponents that we lost to and has been a great ride. A credit to my coaching staff, my kids and fans for showing up and been a lot of fun to go back-to-back NJIC Championships.”