A new twist on Senior Night: Ridgewood keeps it all in house

Max Brodsky pushing the ball up the floor for the Seniors on Senior Night in Ridgewood.

RIDGEWOOD – Senior Night has grown past its mission. Originally intended to give players and their families an opportunity to be recognized for their contributions to a particular athletic program over four years of high school, it has turned into “Who plays, for how long, against who and when?”

It’s gotten awkward.

“It’s evolved into something that it was never really intended to be. I love my seniors. Every year they give us everything. I keep a lot of guys, they are our scout team a lot of times in practice and they push us every single day. As a coach, I am so appreciative and they should be honored,” said Ridgewood boys basketball coach Mike Troy. “But what [Senior Night] has grown into is that playing time got attached to it and it became, ‘Just call X team and schedule them,’ and there is something very condescending about that.”

So rather than look for a walk-over opponent to sit through the pregame festivities and then figure out how long to play a starting lineup comprised of the senior class in configurations that have not been a part of a single practice or used in a single game situation all season, Ridgewood got ahead of the curve on Friday night.

It was Senior Night and Ridgewood decided to celebrate amongst its own. The Maroons brought in a DJ, a photographer and made it a party that included two games of hoops: Ridgewood’s freshman class against its sophomore class and its juniors against its seniors complete with the good-natured trash talk during the school day leading up to the event.

“Compared to a regular Senior Night, if it is a game that really matters for the playoffs the seniors don’t get to play that much anyway and, while it seems like a nice gesture, some kids in the past have gotten embarrassed from only going in for a couple of seconds. Or if it’s a good team and you take a loss, the seniors take that hard,” said Braden Chiel, one of the eight seniors on the Ridgewood roster. “This is different there was a lot of [trash]-talking and we are competing like it is a real game, which makes it a lot more fun than just scrimmaging in practice. Everyone has been excited and everyone has been looking forward to it all week.”

Ridgewood has 8 seniors on its roster and all of them got plenty of run.

Ridgewood played Union City on Thursday and will play Bergenfield on Saturday with a chance to wrap up the No. 1 seed in the North 1, Group 4 state sectional playoffs. Friday’s Senior Night had more juice than the Union City game and probably will have more than will be in the gym for the road game in Bergenfield.

While it was Troy that brought the new format to his players for their thoughts and then set the wheels in motion, the idea came from the mad scientist himself, assistant coach Joe DelBuono.

Ever hear of The BIT, the secondary tournament that started in boys basketball and is now being used in just about every sport in Bergen County and was originally met with skepticism? That was also DelBuono’s idea and the basis for his designs is always, ‘What is best for the kids?’

The parents got their walk from the stands to center court for a picture that will become a precious family memory and there was a program wide postgame meal at a local steakhouse, but the action on the court was all about the Class of 2024.

“Coach [DelBuono] is the one who came up with this and I said I would pitch it to the seniors and if they are good we will go with it. They were and this is the result,” said Troy. “Everyone in the program is here. Everyone is cheering for each other and it is just about the kids. We get to celebrate ourselves by ourselves and that is something really powerful.”

The juniors were all in, too.

“I like it a lot. I think it is a great chance to come together and watch the seniors play. I wouldn’t say this is as fast-paced as a real game, but it is more intense because we have been playing these guys every single day in practice since the season started and we have gotten really close,” said Theo Cassavant, a member of the Class of 2025, during the halftime break. “Obviously we want to give the seniors the spotlight. That is the way it should be, but it would be fun to spoil it as well.”

Final score? Juniors 55, Seniors 52 and the juniors now lead the all-time series 1-0.