The Riverside-Brookfield girls basketball team was so excited to kick off the season the Lady Bulldogs couldn’t even wait for its annual Bill VandeMerkt Tournament. Instead, RB has already picked up four wins on the season, knocking off Addison Trail in their nonconference season-opener and then besting Guerin, Argo and Evergreen Park at the Argo Thanksgiving Tournament last week.
“Obviously, it’s great to start for us picking up four wins,” RB coach Dallas Till said. “I’m pleasantly surprised with our start. We have a lot of new faces [this season] so we’re still working on finding our identity, but I think our defense has carried us through so far.”
Through four games, Brittany JnoBaptiste is averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds, including three double-doubles, while immediate impact sophomore Janae Dabney is notching 11 points and nine boards per game. Senior guard Hannah Claywell has added to the Bulldogs’ early season balance at 13 points per game along with dishing out numerous assists.
“The first two months are extremely busy for us in terms of games,” Till said. “We don’t really have any expectations in terms of record. We just expect to improve daily and to gel as a team as the season progresses.”
Till’s measured optimism partly stems from the loss of four starters, notably Elena Duve and Meghan Orgler, and 11 seniors overall from last season. Any uncertainties aside, the Bulldogs’ fast start reflects Till’s unwavering belief in an up-tempo attack at both ends of the floor in order for RB to have success.
Despite the loss of several aforementioned players to graduation, the Bulldogs return relatively well-stocked with key members from last year’s squad, which finished 19-11 overall highlighted by a 9-3 run and second-place showing in the Metro Suburban Conference. De La Salle dealt RB a 67-60 loss in the Class 3A regional finals to end the Bulldogs’ season, falling one victory shy of 20 wins.
JnoBaptiste and Claywell, who both enjoyed breakout campaigns last year, are excellent scorers who can also pass, rebound and defend. Six-footer Kaija Bole saw limited action last year, but appears poised to lend the Bulldogs an inside presence this season. Emma Schander is a solid senior guard back in the fold, along with fellow senior Stephanie Taccola.
An infusion of young talent will provide the Bulldogs’ primary source for depth. Caroline Waas is a junior point guard looking to contribute, while sophomores Dabney and Miranda Chavez are already delivering on some of their considerable promise.
Riverside-Brookfield will look to challenge defending conference champion Timothy Christian and preseason favorite Glenbard South for the Metro Suburban title this year. Ridgewood lurks as a viable conference darkhorse.
As part their Bill VandeMerkt Tournament this week, the Bulldogs host Nazareth on Friday at (1:30 p.m.).