Tenafly zips past Pascack Valley by J.C. Baumuller special to northjerseysports.com

HILLSDALE – Tenafly used a combination of strong defense and great ball movement to topple Pascack Valley, 69-50, Thursday night.

The Tigers zipped the ball around the perimeter to set up teammates for easy shots. As a result no fewer than seven Tenafly players scored at least two points in the game.

“We know we have a lot of offensive weapons on our team so we try to get everyone involved,” said senior Johnny Angbazo, who led all scorers with 26 points. “The good teams are able to stop you if you only have one or two options so we try to get everyone involved because we have the talent to do so.”

“After the new year the biggest thing we’ve done is share the ball, move the ball,” added Tenafly coach Jeff Koehler. “The game play is always to get the ball down low to Johnny (Angbazo) and work off that. That’s where Elon [Levy], Alon (Aboodi) and all the other guys really come through. Dennis Kardonsky, our point guard, is super fast. I need a coach on the floor and he’s doing a great job. They all are. I’m really proud of them, especially since we had a person absent today and they all came through. The scoring was really spread out.”

The Tigers never trailed in the game and they started strong with a three-pointer by Aboodi (5 points) in the first minute of the game, followed by a drive to the basket by Angbazo 20 seconds later.
By the end of the first quarter their lead had grown to 22-13.

After Levy (13 points) opened the second quarter with a jumper and Valley sophomore Austin Koolery swished a three-pointer Tenafly went on a 13-0 run to break the game open. The run got started when Angbazo drained a three-pointer, Levy fed Angbazo inside for a bucket and then Levy canned a three of his own 24 seconds later. The Tigers defense really stepped up, forcing turnovers and turning each offensive possession into points and a 37-16 lead.

“If our defense is good,” Angbazo said, “we’re able to create more points off the defense. If we have energy on defense it leads into offensive energy.”

Valley fought back with a put-back by senior Mike Garay (9 points), a pair of free throws by senior Max Yellin (15 points) and a basket from in close by senior Justin Nicata (4 points). Early in the second half the teams traded baskets and midway through the quarter there was a scuffle underneath the basket. A foul was called on a Pascack Valley player and a technical foul was called on a Tenafly player.

The ruckus seemed to energize the Indians as they went on a 14-6 run to cut the Tenafly lead down to nine, 50-41, as the third quarter came to a close. Koolery was hot, hitting three three-pointers and adding four free throws. He finished with a team-high 20 points.

“We knew the whole game that they could get hot,” Angbazo said. “They’re very well-coached and the last time we played them they didn’t miss from three so we knew they could really get hot. And they’re a good team. Coach always says to ‘weather the storm’ and that’s what we did.”

“We knew coming in No. 21 (Koolery) and No. 3 (Yellin) are good players,” Koehler said. “I think this coaching staff is the best in the county, besides my own. I’m so impressed with them. You’re talking about two hall of famers (head coach Al Coleman and assistant Roy Nygren) and they’re really big time.”

Tenafly “weathered the storm” and extended its lead with an 11-2 run. Senior point guard Dennis Kardonsky (13 points) pulled down a rebound and traveled coast-to-coast for a layup. Half a minute later Kardonsky tallied on a put-back. Then Angbazo went the length of the court for a dunk and scored on a three-point play. Senior Shai Yona (7 points) ended the run with a great basket off a pretty pass from Aboodi to boost the lead back up to 18 points.

Much of the Tigers’ success can be attributed to the familiarity they have with each other having played together for years.

“We’ve been playing since third grade so it really means a lot,” Angbazo said. “It’s not just about the seniors. We have a lot of young kids that work hard in practice every day. It’s a great bond. I love every kid on the team. We’ve all been playing with each other since elementary days down at the courts so we all know each other and we all like each other.”

In the preseason Koehler felt the team could have a successful season.

“I always dream the dream no matter what team I have,” he said with a smile. “I always think there’s a way. As a coaching staff we always feel like we can beat anybody. But these guys, not only did I think they could win but I’ve never had a team in any one of my sports that put in this much time and effort. From the moment the [2017-18] season ended Alon (Aboodi), Shai (Yona), Johnny (Angbazo) and captain Eric [Berschadsky] said we’re going to start lifting every day and they did. Then we did the spring league and the summer league. We did the team camp and the fall league. They did more than any other team I have ever had in my life.

“To make it even better they are great guys. When you look at the parents you can see how the kids are. I have great parents and they’re great kids. I hope it continues. This group has been working their butt off together since sixth grade. I’m really lucky to have them.”

With the win Tenafly improves to 13-5 and is still in the running for a league title and what they hope is a nice run in the state playoffs.

“It’s definitely exciting,” Angbazo said. “That’s why we knew we had to come here and win tonight. We call it the last hurrah. We want to make it mean something.”

“It was a good win,” said Koehler. “Playing here is always hard. It’s funny, my guys were like, ‘do we have it?’ and I said, ‘no, you never have it with Al [Coleman].’ Al is one of the best.”