Passaic Valley defends its own turf in Holiday Tournament final

Joe Jandoli finished with game-highs of 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots for Passaic Valley, which won its own Hoiliday Tournament with a 53-23 win over Hasbrouck Heights.

LITTLE FALLS – Passaic Valley’s boys basketball team has developed a special bond, the kind that shows in the way the Hornets have all bought in to playing team defense. It is not about who scores the most points or who makes a flashy play, but about a team that puts playing the right way and finding a way to win above all else. Facing Hasbrouck Heights, Passaic Valley cranked up the pressure right from the opening tap and made it clear that it would take one heck of an offensive possession just to get a good look at the basket.

The Hornets held Heights scoreless in the first quarter and opened up a 25-point lead on the way to the Passaic Valley Holiday Tournament championship with an impressive 53-23 triumph on Friday afternoon in Little Falls.

“We want to be as active as we can be,” said Passaic Valley point guard Kris West. “Jumping in passing lanes, getting deflections, giving help defense all the time. We always want to take chances to get a steal but trying to stay disciplined while we do it.”

Hasbrouck Heights made a concerted effort to get the ball inside. However, they were consistently met there by Joe Jandoli and Sal Panicucci, who combined for five first quarter blocks.

After being held scoreless for the first 9:35 of the game, Francisco Corona finally got the Aviators on the board with a three-pointer and a layup on the next possession by Damon Rivera cut the Hornets’ lead to 10-5. That momentum did not last long as the Hornets kept the pressure on and won the hustle battle both for loose balls and on the glass.

A possession that summed up the entire game happened midway through the second quarter with West doing all the damage. He first got his hand into the passing lane for a steal and a layup, which he got fouled on. After missing the ensuing free-throw, the ball popped right back to the unboxed-out West, who then canned a three-pointer for a personal 5-0 run in a matter of seconds. The Hornets turned two ill-advised passes on the next two possessions into easy layups to kickstart a 22-2 run that closed out the half with PV firmly in control, 32-7.

Noah Robles and Hasbrouck Heights are now 4-3 on the season.

“We’re a team that creates our offense throughout our defense,” said Jandoli. “We’ve done a good job lately of finishing on the fast break. Once we get our half-court offense clicking better, we’ll become a much better team. We’ve been pushing hard every day to get better and we’re starting to see that. Whatever it takes to win, we’ll do it.”

Hasbrouck Heights scored five quick points to start the third quarter, but never got closer than 20 as the Hornets played under control right through until the final buzzer sounded.

Jandoli was the lone player on either team to reach double-figures in the scoring column. He finished with game-highs of 14 points, eight rebounds, and five blocked shots. West and Jordan Corprew each added nine points, while Stavros Makrygiannis chipped in with eight.

Rivera led the way for Hasbrouck Heights (4-3) with eight points,

After falling to Passaic in its season opener, Passaic Valley has now ripped off four wins in a row. That will give the Hornets plenty of confidence heading into league play, which starts on Tuesday against rival Wayne Valley.

“We felt like if we could pick up full-court and keep the pressure on them that we could set the tone,” said Passaic Valley head coach Kevin Tuohey. “Our kids did a great job of getting into the passing lanes. We feel pretty good about how we’ve been playing. The key for us is to stay humble. Wayne Valley on Tuesday will be a good test for us to see where we are. Proud of these guys though. They’re coachable and they play for one another. When your kids get after it for 32 minutes and work together, it’s really all you can ask for as a coach.”