After a 6-11 start last season, the Riverside-Brookfield girls basketball team got on a roll midseason, winning 10 of its last 14 games en route to an over .500 campaign (16-15), regional championship and sectional title game appearance. The senior-laden Bulldogs return ready to build off last season’s second-half surge with essentially the same roster back plus one key addition: new head coach Dallas Till.
Till, also the RB head baseball coach and a former head basketball coach at Elmwood Park, replaces longtime coach Larry Rocco as the Bulldogs’ bench leader. He is eager to take on his latest coaching challenge, bolstered by the Bulldogs’ promising cast of returning players.
“It’s a great group of kids to have my first season,” Till said. “The confidence level has grown with these girls each practice. The desire to be great is evident and hopefully it comes to fruition.”
While the Bulldogs will miss all-conference 6-foot center Kelsey Egger and sparkplug guard Maggie Zeleny, five capable seniors in Elena Duve, Danielle Peco, Kiley Rusen, Meghan Orgler and Gina Sapienza will assume leadership roles. The bench should be stacked with Brittany Janney, Megan Walsen, Alleigh VandeMerkt, Caitlin Boxell, Hannah Claywell and Brittany JnoBaptiste.
Duve is a versatile guard/forward who can rebound and score, while Peco is a sharpshooting guard with a solid all-court game. Rusen, an excellent reserve last year, appears primed to step into a starting role. Sapienza will be called on to defend the paint, rebound and score in replacement of Egger. Like Duve, forward/center Orgler can help the Bulldogs in multiple ways. Last season, she made a dramatic put back basket as time expired to lift RB to a 53-52 victory over Nazareth in the RB Sectional semifinals.
“It was awesome,” Orgler said after that thrilling shot. “It was a big surprise. I didn’t hear the buzzer so I thought I got [the shot] off in time.”
The Bulldogs, who open the season this week at Addison Trail, host both Thanksgiving and Christmas tournaments this year, in addition to competing with teams like Glenbard South, Illiana Christian and Timothy Christian for the Metro Suburban Conference Championship.
“We’ll play a variety of teams with different styles,” Till said. “Every player on our team needs to accept her role. If our players aren’t concerned with who gets the credit, we could be tough to beat.”