THS Boys Basketball Scores the Most Successful Season in 55 Years


Hawaiian leis, tinted sunglasses, and tropical-patterned button-downs engulfed the bustling stands as the enthusiastic crowd radiated spirit and support through their hollers. A unified applause ushered in the players as they stepped foot onto the court, each player grinning as he basked in the support of his peers. Smiles then faded into serious, focused expressions as the players advanced into formation, and a silence parted the crowd’s cheers. At last, the whistle blew and the ball was hurled into the air. The silence was broken yet again, and the crowd went wild.

For the first time in 55 years, the Tenafly Boys Varsity Basketball team advanced to the sectional title game against Ramapo. The boys kicked off their season strong, winning 20 games and only losing five others in the span of four months. However, the last few games of this season weren’t the easiest ride, with almost every game coming down to the last shot. In the first round of the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 3 tournament, Tenafly fended off Pascack Valley, 63-62. In the quarterfinal game, Tenafly held off West Essex, 62-57, in overtime. In the semifinal game, the boys hung on until the crowd counted down from ten, relishing in their 59-57 victory over 14th-seeded Teaneck. With their entire season building up to this final moment, they were pumped to be able to play a role in reaching a Tenafly Athletics milestone. For sophomore star Reilly Benowitz (’24), playing in the state finals had forever been a dream. “When we won against Teaneck to make the [sectional] championship, all the emotions just came flowing out,” Benowitz said. “It was just pure happiness.” 

While Tenafly unfortunately came short of 11 points against No. 1 seed Ramapo, being in the run for a sectional title for the first time since 1967 is quite the achievement. Securing this spot would have been an impossible feat if not for the team’s dedication to the sport, especially following the uncertainty of the prior COVID-19 season. They poured their blood, sweat, and tears into perfecting their game—more specifically, their defense. By adding a lockdown defense to an already unrivaled offense, the team became almost unbeatable.

This season, Tenafly’s very own Coach Koehler steered the boys through their successful, yet at times tense, season. Leading two other equally successful teams and knowing the ins and outs of winning, Koehler’s extensive 25 years of experience in coaching high school sports has tremendously influenced Tenafly’s athletic department. “[Coach Koehler taught me that] it was about the team and doing anything and everything you can to get the win,” Benowitz said. “I think that really showed this season based on how far we got in the state tournament.”

As always, success on the court is unattainable without good chemistry between the players. With the seniors making up four out of the starting five players, they especially had to step up and serve as role models for both current and future Tigers. “The big thing was we got a senior class, a big senior class that really understood how to finish games,” Koehler said after capping off his 8th season coaching Boys Varsity Basketball. 

The team being a blend of lower and upperclassmen worked in favor for the Tigers, as each player contributed to the momentous season. “The senior class and their experience with the game really paved the way and guided the younger players, including myself, to where we got,” Yuval Guttman (’24) said. Koehler further accredits the three senior captains—John Celli, Bobby Kwon, and Ben Roberts—for showcasing their leadership skills until the very end. “They really put the team on their back and made sure everyone was focused,” Koehler said. “The senior class showed the younger kids there is one way to do it…you put the team first, it’s not about who scores, it’s about how you win as a team.”  The team’s evident brotherhood and persistence were key elements to its success, and these traits left the boys with lasting bonds beyond the court. As they reflect on the successful season, they are filled with great pride and joy. “I love these guys and there are just no words. The seniors have been best friends since kindergarten and this is what we’ve been working for, ” Benowitz told

Along with the skill and success of the team, the support and spirit of the student body this season was truly extraordinary, reinforcing the players’ success. Following the boys’ journey through their league and the rigorous tournaments, many dedicated students assembled to support the team. Perhaps some of the most memorable moments of the season were the last few seconds of closely-tied games, where fans were caught on the edges of their seats, cheering while simultaneously shaking with nerves. According to, the team’s parents referred to them as the “cardiac kids” this season, as the boys were infamous for their buzzer beaters that broke ties for their final-minute victories. As Benowitz recounted, in Tenafly’s league championship game against Old Tappan, it was his final shot that set the Tigers up for success. “We were tied with seven seconds left and Celli brought the ball down the court,” he said. With only two seconds left on the clock, Celli passed Benowitz the ball. “I pump-faked, took one dribble, and shot.” The next thing he knew, the ball went in, and the crowd began to “swarm and tackle” him, jumping from their seats and gathering on the court. “It has to be one of, if not the best, moments of my life.” 

Proud of the team’s triumphant efforts, Koehler keeps the same goals year after year but is mindful that each year brings unpredictability. “[We] want to win the holiday tournament, make jamboree, get a good seat in the seeds, and be competitive overall.” As for next year, the team hopes to carry on this year’s legacy. “I told the guys returning next year that what we started this year isn’t going to stop; it’s only going to continue,” Benowitz, who will be taking on the role of captain, said. “Next year will bring a lot of change, but I think it will bring a lot of success too.”