After a disheartening loss to Timothy Christian on Thursday, which knocked the Riverside-Brookfield girls basketball team out of Metro Suburban Conference championship contention, the short-handed Bulldogs responded admirably with a 57-35 win at Leyden on Saturday afternoon.
Playing without key players Elena Duve, Gina Sapienza and Alleigh VandeMerkt, the Bulldogs (17-9, 8-3) received strong performances from their best two shooters from distance Danielle Peco (15 points) and Kiley Rusen (12 points). The RB guards combined for seven three-pointers to fuel a strong third-quarter run and RB victory.
“We came out flat but played a great third quarter,” RB coach Dallas Till said. “I thought the girls showed a lot of resolve by winning this game. Ten of 11 players that dressed [today] scored so it was a great team effort.”
Thursday’s showdown with Timothy Christian didn’t go as smoothly for the Bulldogs, particularly in the second half.
In the first half, RB actually appeared poised to earn a season sweep of the Trojans and be in the proverbial “driver’s seat” to win the conference title. Instead, the Trojans rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit en route to a 47-41 win that crushed the Bulldogs’ title aspirations.
With the victory, Timothy Christian clinched the conference championship, moving its league mark to 11-1. The Trojans’ lone loss was a 52-42 setback at RB on Dec. 15.
For the Bulldogs, the game against Timothy Christian will be remembered as a lost opportunity. In the second quarter, five players scored. Kiley Rusen hit a pair of three-pointers as RB dominated the action with a 17-5 scoring burst. Unfortunately, a lackluster third quarter proved costly as Timothy Christian outscored RB 20-8 to take the lead at 35-32.
Senior forward Meghan Orgler netted a team-high 13 points, followed by Rusen (9 points) and Danielle Peco (8 points).
The Bulldogs set up their showdown with the Trojans by defeating host Elmwood Park 62-48 on Jan. 31. Orgler scored a game-high 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting and pulled down eight rebounds. Claywell contributed 12 points and Elena Duve compiled six points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
“Coach Till stressed to us the importance of maintaining defensive pressure,” Claywell said. “We did a good job on defense and for the most part shutting down their top scorer, No. 24. Offensively, we hit the shots we needed to make.”
With RB pulling away from the perennially pesky Tigers in the second half, VandeMerkt (6 points, 7 rebounds) and Kaija Bole (6 points) led a spirited performance from the RB bench.
“It’s always great to play some of our younger kids to move them along for next year,” Till said. “I’m always happy whenever they can get some playing time, and I thought they play hard particularly Alleigh VandeMerkt.”
RB closes the regular season on the road against Glenbard South Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Glen Ellyn.