With all due respect to Ridgewood, the Riverside-Brookfield boys basketball team would prefer not sharing the Metro Suburban Conference championship with its perennial rival Rebels this season. After Friday’s 81-50 win over Illiana Christian, the Bulldogs ensured at least a share of the conference title, collecting their 11th-straight conference crown.
Ridgewood (19-6, 10-1), which trails RB by only a game in the conference race, gets its shot to earn a split of the league championship in this Friday’s regular season finale at RB. Leading into the highly anticipated matchup, the red-hot Bulldogs (21-4, 11-0 Metro Suburban Conference) have won 14 games in a row. In their earlier meeting this season, RB edged the Rebels 71-63 in Norridge on Jan. 27.
“I think playing against Ridgewood is a great game for us leading into the state tournament,” RB coach Tom McCloskey said. “Ridgewood has great players and it’s always a big challenge to play against them. Obliviously, no team wants to share a conference title so that’s a motivation for us.”
Despite missing 6-foot-7 center Mike Ljuboja to injury, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 20-8 first-quarter lead and never looked back against Timothy Christian. Senior guard Luke Nortier scored 11 of his 15 points in the opening period. With the Bulldogs leading 34-16 at the 4:22 mark of the second quarter, Damonta Henry caught fire and scored nine points the rest of the period to power the Bulldogs to a 45-20 halftime advantage.
Henry finished with a game-high 22 points along with eight rebounds and five assists while Andrew Hanley chipped in nine points.
“We wanted to come out strong and play hard,” Henry said. “Illiana Christian wanted to run and we wanted to run so it was our kind of game.”
The Bulldogs’ lead ballooned to 71-31 early in the fourth quarter as Liam Lesniak (9 points, 5 rebounds) scored six straight points to fuel another run. RB reserves Jordan Dahms, Tyler Campbell, Hunter Claire, David Aldape and Javon Taylor closed out the game as 10 players scored on the night.
Elijah Lares paced Illiana Christian with 16 points and Marcus Ottenhoff added 13 points.
The RB vs. Ridgewood game starts at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“We love our home crowd and feed off their energy,” Nortier said. “I’m sure with our ‘Sixth Man’ [student cheering section] fans going crazy it’s going to be a really great atmosphere.”