Although the Riverside-Brookfield boys basketball team hasn’t won the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic recently – the closest the Bulldogs came was a 2009 finals loss to Lyons Township – head coach Tom McCloskey is proud the program has consistently placed well.
RB (9-4) continued that pattern of success by winning three of four games to capture fifth place at Tosh last week.
“Over the last four years, we have won 11 of 16 games at this tournament,” McCloskey said. “We played four really good teams, three of them being Class 4A schools, and finished 3-1 for the week. Playing against bigger schools and tougher competition makes us a better basketball team.”
The Bulldogs certainly earned their three Tosh victories in thrilling fashion last week. Fueled by a 20-11 second quarter run, RB knocked off scrappy St. Francis 61-54 in the fifth place game on Friday. Junior center Miki Ljuboja dominated the Spartans inside scoring 23 points and grabbing 20 rebounds in his best-ever varsity performance. Luke Nortier (18 points) and Damonta Henry (11 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists) supported the Bulldogs’ big man.
RB set up their St. Francis meeting by outlasting Maine South 53-50 in a double-overtime thriller. With the Bulldogs clinging to a 51-50 lead in the second OT, Henry (23 points, 5 rebounds) made the decisive play stealing the ball on a Maine South inbounds play and scoring a layup. Reserves Eric Loury and Liam Lesniak chipped in nine points and six points, respectively, while Ljuboja had seven points and seven boards.
The Bulldogs opened the tournament with a close 44-43 victory over host York. Henry led the way for RB again, scoring 14 points and pulling down eight rebounds.
The Bulldogs’ lone loss came against eventual tournament champion St. Ignatius in a hard-fought 62-52 second-round matchup. Wolfpack star Brian Howard tallied a game-high 29 points as St. Ignatius held off a late rally by RB. After Howard dominated the first half, Henry took over in the second half scoring 16 of his team-high 18 points in addition to effectively defending Howard. Nortier contributed 15 points and the 6-7 Ljuboja recorded a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“We really stepped it up and made a run in the second half,” Ljuboja said. “It’s important for us to keep growing as a team after every game and come back playing even harder.”
The Bulldogs host Glenbard South on Friday (7 p.m.) in a key Metro Suburban Conference game.