For at least a weekend, the Riverside-Brookfield boys basketball team must have felt like an NBA team facing three road games in three nights on a compacted schedule. While pro basketball teams have been busy making up lost time due to the league lockout, the Bulldogs played three contests over the weekend partly to make up for Mother Nature and also to hopefully strengthen their postseason seed.
Sandwiched between regularly scheduled games against conference archrival Ridgewood and Corliss, RB (16-4, 6-0 Metro Suburban Conference) made up a postponed game (due to snow) against Illiana Christian on Saturday. Ninety-six minutes of high school basketball later, the Bulldogs’ busy hoops itinerary worked out according to plan with three important wins.
“It was a little risky scheduling the Illiana Christian game,” said RB coach Tom McCloskey, “but I wanted to get the game in as soon as possible for [postseason] seeding. We played four games in four days at the Tosh tournament, so I thought our kids could handle it.”
The Bulldogs’ biggest win of their trifecta occurred against Ridgewood in a hard-fought 71-63 decision on Friday. Leading 43-40 after three quarters, RB built its advantage to 13 with under two minutes remaining in the game via an Andrew Hanley three-pointer before the scrappy Rebels whittled the margin with some late baskets. The terrific tandem of juniors Miki Ljuboja (23 points, 9 rebounds) and Damonta Henry (23 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) along with senior Luke Nortier’s eight-point, 11-rebound performance sparked the Bulldogs, who seized sole possession of first place in the Metro Suburban Conference. In the Rebels’ hostile environment, the Bulldogs shot well, connecting on 24-of-46 (52.2 %) shots and handed out 17 assists compared to just 10 turnovers.
Despite solid defense particularly by RB junior Eric Loury, the Rebels’ top gun Andy Maczurczak netted a game-high 25 points.
“The intensity was really high for the [Ridgewood] game – you could just feel it,” McCloskey said. “Ridgewood is an outstanding team that always plays so hard. They have great quickness and foot speed, and I respect the job [Ridgewood coach] Chris Mroz is doing with the program. It’s really a great team victory for us.”
RB maintained its focus post-Ridgewood by notching a 52-43 victory over Corliss at the Ronald Chops Billinger Memorial Shootout hosted by North Park University on Sunday afternoon. The Bulldogs understandably were a bit sluggish against Corliss on the tail end of their triple dip before a 13-0 spurt in the fourth quarter secured the victory. Hanley nailed a trio of three-pointers during the decisive run.
Against Illiana Christian on Saturday night, Nortier recorded a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Ljuboja (15 points, 8 rebounds), Henry (14 points) and Loury (10 points, 4 assists) also led the charge.
Riding a nine-game winning streak, RB visits Elmwood Park in another conference matchup this week.