By Marty Farmer
In recent years, 14 has become the new 18 at times around the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls basketball varsity team. During the 2013-2014 season, freshmen Samantha Bloom, Lyndsey Hoyd and Dana Rettke confidently stepped right into the varsity lineup and led the Bulldogs to multiple winning seasons.
While the 6-foot-8 Rettke eventually left the team her junior year to focus on volleyball, she certainly made her mark as a towering scorer, rebounder and shot blocker. Bloom and Hoyd graduated in 2017 as one of the Bulldogs' best backcourts in program history.
This season, another freshman has embraced the responsibility of being a team leader. Like her first-year varsity starting predecessors, Brenna Loftus has already established herself as a freshman who plays like a savvy senior.
"I grew up hearing about Sam, Lyndsey and Dana and I watched them play when I was in middle school," said Loftus, a Riverside resident. "I don't think age really matters. Whether you're 14 or 18, you have to be ready work hard and take the season seriously. The biggest adjustment from middle school to high school basketball is just realizing it's the real deal now."
That's not to say Loftus and her teammates aren't having fun. The Bulldogs are 16-4 overall and 5-1 in the Metro Suburban Conference. The team is tight-knit, unselfish and disciplined.
For her part, the 5-foot-8 Loftus is averaging 14.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2 steals while shooting 68 percent from the free throw line.
"Brenna's physical skills are extremely exciting but it's the intangibles that really stand out." RBHS coach Dallas Till said. "Brenna is selfless and coachable and that's probably what the coaching staff appreciates the most. She isn't worried about her personal statistics and has a team-first mentality. She has the opportunity to be great if she continues to improve her game."
Teammates have taken notice of both Loftus' steady contributions and affable demeanor as well.
"Brenna has made an immediate impact," sophomore forward Natalie Leon said. "She's one of our leading scorers and she knows how to take charge in a game. I think she's a very humble and talented basketball player."
Junior forward Maddie Meehan added: "I love Brenna as a teammate. I think anybody watching her would have a hard time believing they are watching a freshman. She's already shown that her age does not match her talent. We all have roles on this team and Brenna is a major piece of our puzzle."
Offensively, Loftus is versatile. She's at her best driving to the basket, creating scoring opportunities for herself or others. Whether it's in the post, around midcourt or beyond the three-point arc, she can score on all levels of half-court basketball.
Defense has been the Bulldogs' calling card this season. Loftus excels on that end of the floor as well.
"Her energy and aggressiveness on the defensive end causes problems for our opponents," Till said. "We like to apply pressure defense and Brenna fits that style well."
Meehan also praised Loftus defensively, noting her quickness and footwork.
While Loftus may run track this year and has dabbled in softball previously, basketball is her passion. Playing on this particular RBHS team has made hoops even more enjoyable.
"The season has gone so well because we are having fun and working well together," Loftus said. "My teammates are amazing and the coaching staff is incredible."