It seemed innocuous at the moment but the beginning of the end for the Lyons Township boys basketball team essentially occurred with 3:15 left in the second quarter against host Riverside-Brookfield on Saturday. Tied at 25, the Bulldogs’ Luke Nortier nailed a three-pointer, giving RB its first lead of the game at 28-25. Nortier’s trey triggered a 24-8 run, which paved the way for the Bulldogs’ convincing 78-60 nonconference win.
In the first half, RB made 8 of 17 three-pointers to seize momentum after trailing 15-6 early. Up 39-33 at halftime, the Bulldogs outscored the Lions 10-0 to build a 49-33 advantage midway through the third quarter. Junior guard Damonta Henry scored seven of his team-high 18 points during the run.
Offensive balance and efficiency were keys for RB, which placed four players in double figures: Henry 18, Andrew Hanley 15, Louis Marino 15, and Miki Ljuboja 14. Led by Nortier’s 10 assists, the Bulldogs also shared the basketball well, totaling 19 helpers for the game against only nine turnovers.
“Our first game [75-72 loss to Urban Prep] we had too many turnovers,” Marino said. “We have been taking our time, playing together and not turning the ball over as much. We always hear about LT being a big school, but I’m just glad a smaller public school like ours beat them.”
The Bulldogs have beaten the Lions three of the last four seasons. Both teams essentially lost their starting lineups to graduation, but so far RB (5-1) has enjoyed a smoother transition than LT (1-3).
“We got into some foul trouble and our starters had to come out,” LT senior guard Joe Carroll said. “We tried to fight back with the rest of our team, but fouls always catch up with us. Obviously, we can improve on a lot of things like our full court pressure.”
Fellow senior guard Kenny Smith led the Lions with a game-high 19 points, while Carroll scored 12 points and Chris O’Reilly contributed nine points. Smith was particularly effective in the first half, netting 15 points.
“We wanted to contain No. 23 [Smith] but he made some terrific shots,” RB coach Tom McCloskey said. “Any time we beat LT it’s quite an accomplishment. It’s a great rivalry.”
The Bulldogs held their largest lead of the game, 59-40, With 1:08 remaining in the third quarter.
LT whittled the score to 66-54 with 5:43 left in the game when Carroll made a pair of free throws, but RB responded with a 12-6 closing spurt to secure the victory.
The game marked a reunion of sorts as former RB star Ryan Jackson – now a starting guard at Lewis University – appeared as guest analyst on RBTV.
“I had to show Ryan that I still got it out there,” said Henry with a laugh. “Having him at the game was awesome and our crowd was great, too. They always pick us up and their support makes a big difference.”
On Friday, RB routed Elmwood Park 71-43 in Metro Suburban Conference action. Henry (16 points, 8 rebounds), Nortier (11 points, 6 rebounds) and Chris Duplancich (11 points) starred for the Bulldogs.