The inside/outside combination of Miki Ljuboja and Damonta Henry combined for 30 of their team’s 36 second half points Friday night as Riverside-Brookfield outlasted a pesky Timothy Christian team 65-59 in a Metro Suburban Conference battle at RB.
The two RB juniors are developing a nice chemistry on the court this season. Henry, a lighting quick 6-foot guard hit five three-pointers – four in the second half – and led the Bulldogs (6-3, 2-0) with 25 points, while Ljuboja, a 6-7, 220-pound center with soft shooting touch, scored 22 points. Danny Leach led Timothy (6-5, 1-2) with 17 points.
The Bulldogs came out hot with four different players hitting three-pointers in the first quarter as RB built a 16-9 lead. But Timothy hung around and a three-pointer by Jack Gibson to open the fourth quarter gave the Trojans a 47-46 lead.
That’s when Henry took over.
First he took a nice pass from Liam Lesniak, hit a layup and was fouled. He made the free throw for a three-point play that put the Bulldogs ahead to stay. Then he fed Ljuboja on an out of bounds play and Ljuboja drained a short jumper. After Matt Morrison hit two free throws to pull Timothy to within two, Henry bucketed back-to-back three-pointers to open up a six point lead.
Two straight baskets by Ljuboja maintained the margin and in the final minute Henry hit two free throws and then stole the ball and scored on a finger roll with 21 seconds left to ice the game.
“Their two-three (zone) kind of gave us trouble,” said RB coach Tom McCloskey. “Fortunately Miki had a big game for us and got some inside baskets and Damonta hit some big threes for us.”
The win came after two straight losses for RB. The Bulldogs now head in to a 10-day layoff for final exams and Christmas.
“It’s a huge win,” said Ljuboja, who is emerging as a big time player receiving attention from college scouts. He is finding that Henry is good at delivering the ball to him in the right spots and at just the right time.
“He just tries to get the ball in and get some good looks inside,” Ljuboja said. “Once that happens we can just get the ball out and start shooting.”
In recent years RB has been known for stellar guard play but Ljuboja is developing into the inside scorer that the Bulldogs have often lacked. The big guy has a deadly short jumper from around the lane.
“It’s nice Miki’s off to a great start this season and he’s getting some notice and he’s really producing well,” McCloskey said. “He’s only 15 years old so he’s got a bright future.”
The Bulldogs return to action Dec. 27 at 7:15 p.m. against host York in a first round game of the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament where they’ll be looking to improve on last year’s seventh-place finish.