By Marty Farmer
After a 1-5 start this season under first-year head coach Mike Reingruber, the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball team has improved lately for a variety of reasons.
Winners in nine of their last 11 games, the Bulldogs (10-7, 5-1 Metro Suburban Conference) have become more formidable in large part because of their shooting and defense.
Against Wheaton Academy on Jan. 5, RBHS set the tone early by establishing a 25-10 lead and shooting 70 percent in the first half to build a 45-32 advantage at halftime. The Bulldogs made 14 of 29 three-pointers and assisted on 24 of 28 baskets in a 77-61 win against the Warriors.
"We knew this was a big game coming in, for sole possession of first place thru one round of conference games," Reingruber said. "Our guys were fired up, we hit our first few shots and put together four solid quarters of basketball."
Patrick Hanley (16 points), Zach Vaia (14 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds) and Ryan Cicenas (12 points) made four three-pointers apiece. Reggie Loury also reached double figures in scoring with 15 points, while Jason Bageanis chipped in seven points.
"Patrick has been shooting the ball really well," Reingruber said. "We all know how Ryan can shoot it and score, but I continue to be impressed by how good he's been frequently guarding the other team's best player. Reggie was huge off the bench."
AJ Meindl also played a major role in holding off Wheaton Academy.
"AJ gave us a tremendous lift in the third quarter," Reingruber said. "He made some great hustle plays. He did a lot of things don't necessarily show up in the stat sheets but were instrumental in helping us win the game."
RBHS and Wheaton Academy meet again on Tuesday, Feb. 20.
"They are a very good team," Reingruber said. "We know it's going to be a battle when we have to go there to close out the regular season."
The Bulldogs built on their victory against Wheaton Academy with a couple of wins, 52-46 over Lindblom at DePaul Prep and 69-66 against St, Francis in the Loyola Academy/Martin Luther King Tournament. Against St. Francis, Vaia scored a game-high 30 points with contributions from Hanley (14 points) and Loury (11 points).
RBHS started shooting very well during the holidays. At the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic over Christmas break, the Bulldogs shot 67 percent from the floor, highlighted by 13-for-21 (62 percent) showing from three-point range in a 72-59 victory against TF South. The team went 2-2 at the tournament.
The Bulldogs host St. Edward on Friday, Jan. 12. Tip-off is 7 p.m.