No Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball team had ever won a sectional game. And for most of Wednesday night it looked as if that would not change.
But after trailing for almost the entire game, the Bulldogs dug deep and rallied over the final four minutes of the fourth quarter to force overtime against Orr Academy High School. The Bulldogs then pulled away in the second overtime as RB made history and outlasted Orr for a 60-54 double overtime win in a Class 3A sectional semifinal game played before delirious home crowd that rushed the court at the final buzzer.
Seniors Ryan Jackson and Alex Dziagwa led the way for the Bulldogs.
Jackson, who scored a game high 23 points, hit two free throws with 48 seconds left in the fourth quarter to force overtime, and the 6-foot 9-inch Dziagwa erupted for 10 of the Bulldogs’ 12 points in the second overtime, hitting six straight free throws. Dziagwa finished with 17 points.
The second-seeded Bulldogs (23-5) never led in regulation and were only tied once at 2-2 until Jackson’s free throws forced overtime.
Even with University of Illinois recruit Mycheal Henry sitting out the entire second quarter in foul trouble, the Bulldogs trailed 21-14 at the half. The Bulldogs scored only five points in the first quarter and did not hit a three-pointer in the entire first half.
Seventh-seeded Orr’s quick guards pressured Jackson the length of the court and the leader of the Bulldogs had as many turnovers (five) as points in the first half.
The second half didn’t begin any better. Three minutes into the second half the Bulldogs faced a 12-point deficit trailing 27-15.
“It didn’t look good,” said RB coach Tom McCloskey.
But Jackson and his teammates didn’t quit.
“We just kept playing hard,” Jackson said. “We didn’t want to lose.”
The Bulldogs still trailed by seven with 4:12 left in regulation, but they held Orr scoreless the rest of regulation to pull even. Luke Nortier (11 points) started the rally with a put-back basket with 3:52 left in regulation.
Orr tried to hold the ball, but after a missed Orr free throw, Jackson drove the lane, scored on a layup while being fouled. His free throw cut the margin to two with 1:11 remaining. Then Dziagwa came up with a key steal and Jackson’s two free throws tied the game at 40.
Orr’s Curtis Jones threw up a runner in the lane but missed, and a three-quarter court heave by Jackson at the buzzer was off as the game headed to overtime.
Jackson hit a three-pointer to open the first overtime to give the Bulldogs their first lead of the game. But a three-pointer by Henry, who was playing in front of his future college coach, Bruce Weber – who stood in front of the stage for the entire game – tied the game with 2:26 left.
A Jones free throw put Orr ahead 48-46 with 26 seconds left in the first overtime. Jackson forced a second overtime when he muscled his way into the lane and scored in traffic with just four seconds left in the first extra session to tie the game at 48.
Jackson banged his head on the last play of the first overtime and was a little dazed. He was on the bench for the first 78 seconds of the second overtime, but the Bulldogs grabbed the lead without him.
On the Bulldogs’ first possession of the second overtime, Charlie Morrissey made a beautiful interior pass to Dziagwa for a layup to give the Bulldogs the lead, and they never looked back.
After a Jones miss, Jackson hit two free throws to put the Bulldogs up 52-48.
Then Dziagwa took over. The big guy hit six free throws in a row and then finished off the win with a breakaway dunk.
“Feels great,” Dziagwa said. “We were ready to go for as many overtimes as needed.”
McCloskey credited Jackson for not getting down on himself despite a shaky first half.
“Ryan’s got that amazing will to win,” McCloskey said. “He made some big plays.”
Tough defense by Mike LeBeau and Nortier held Henry to just 11 points. Jones scored 15 points to lead Orr (15-10).
The first ever sectional win was sweet.
“I’m proud to say we got every player who ever played here a sectional win,” McCloskey said.
Jackson said that the sectional win puts this team above all past RB boys basketball teams.
“Now we can probably be considered the best team in school history,” Jackson said.
RB will host top seeded Crane on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in the sectional title game.