Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Seeing Defenders Is Believing

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Seeing Defenders Is Believing

Article excerpt

Hawthorne Christian coach Kevin Standford respected why some people were skeptical about his team before the Passaic County tournament began.

"Nobody sees us," Standford said. "We play in a Bergen County league, so when people look at our record, in a Group 1 league, and they question how good we are, I don't have any problem with that. Again, they never see us play. Now, maybe having seen us play, maybe they have a different opinion."

How could they not?

Sixth-seeded Hawthorne Christian (16-2) blew out 11th-seeded Passaic in the first round, 57-35, and advanced to the PCT semifinals for the first time by upsetting third-seeded Wayne Valley, 43-40, Saturday at Kennedy High School. The Defenders will try to reach their first PCT final at noon Saturday, when they'll play second-seeded DePaul in the semifinals at Kennedy.

"Especially for our seniors, this is their last shot at it," said Standford, whose team started participating in the PCT in 2002. "For three years, they've lost in the first round ... so they just wanted to play more Saturdays in February."

Senior forward Paul Little, a Wayne resident, scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds against Wayne Valley (15- 5).

Little Falls' Alex Thomas, a 6-foot-6 sophomore center, also scored a team-high 17 points and pulled down 17 rebounds for Hawthorne Christian, which overcame a 13-4 deficit in the first quarter.

"This was a huge win for us and we're excited about it," Thomas said. "But we know that we have to take one step at a time and we've just got to prepare all week for [Saturday]."

No matter what happens against DePaul, Thomas knows the Defenders, ranked No. 15 in the North Jersey Top 25, have earned the respect of coaches, fans and players throughout Passaic County.

"I think in the beginning we were really the unknown team to people in the tournament," Thomas said. "No one really knew about us. We don't play in a big league, but we came out and we showed what we could do. …

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