Playing on its home court was about the only advantage the Riverside Brookfield girls basketball team had going into last night’s first round regional playoff game against Prosser (after deadline.).
“Nothing’s easy,” RB head coach Larry Rocco said last week when discussing the hill his team would need to climb just to advance out of its own regional.
The Bulldogs, who closed out the regular season on Friday with a 56-49 loss to Fenton to finish 8-1 in the Metro Suburban Conference, were seeded seventh in the stocked Riverside Brookfield Sectional. And RB’s first opponent was no pushover. Prosser held a record of 22-2 going into last night’s game.
A victory over Prosser for the Bulldogs wouldn’t be celebrated for very long. Not with No. 2 seed Proviso East coming to RB’s main gym on Thursday night (7:30 p.m.). As of last week, the Pirates were ranked 14th in the state, held an overall record of 25-2, and had won the West Suburban (Gold) Conference outright with a perfect 12-0 mark.
To add to the challenge, RB was forced to kick-off the postseason without its regular starting guard. Two-year starter Kristin Zeleny suffered a knee injury in the final period of a 66-61 win over Elmwood Park a few weeks ago. Rocco said his senior was out indefinitely.
“The things that Kristin does on the court you really can’t measure. She’s a huge part of our press, and really impossible to replace,” said Rocco. “It’s not an ideal situation to be going into these games without your regular starting five.”
If RB manages to upset Proviso East, it’s likely second-ranked Fenwick awaits, but with three sophomores in the lineup, Rocco and his team have enough to worry about.
Two senior leaders no doubt eager to prolong their high school basketball careers are Katelyn McCloskey and Sarah Strait, who have been the driving force behind the 20-9 Bulldogs all season. Last week, McCloskey moved up to No. 2 on RB’s all-time career scoring list with 1,466 points. She trails her cousin Maggie McCloskey (1,906 points), who is currently a starting guard for Loyola University.
Strait, who returned from ACL surgery mid-season last year, tallied eight double-doubles during the regular season, including a 30-point, 14-rebound performance in RB’s 63-52 romp of Willowbrook last week. The 6-foot center averaged 15 points and nine rebounds per game during the regular season.
The loss to Fenton on Friday, RB’s first conference loss in five years, was meaningless due to the fact that the Bulldogs had already won their fifth straight MSC title.