The Riverside-Brookfield boys basketball team successfully navigated through possibly its most difficult step towards securing another conference championship with a 61-60 road win over rival Ridgewood on Friday.
The Bulldogs (13-4, 5-0) have won six-straight Metro Suburban Conference titles (and 11 consecutive league championships overall), however, scrappy Ridgewood always provides RB a stern test.
“This was a big conference game in front of a big crowd so it’s nice to come out with a victory,” said RB coach Tom McCloskey. “The Ridgewood game is always special. We are good friends with the [Ridgewood] coaching staff but it ends there once the ball goes up. Both teams want to win this game very badly.”
Intensity was established early as the Bulldogs raced out to an impressive 20-11 lead after one quarter. The Rebels battled back to tie the game, 28-all, at halftime.
In the fourth quarter, Ridgewood seized momentum and a 54-51 lead before RB rallied. Will Kincanon, who has been hampered by an ankle injury this season, finally appeared back to form as evidenced by his aggressive drive and one, which resulted in a three-point play to square the score at 54-54. The versatile junior also knocked down four three-pointers in an impressive third quarter flurry.
“This game is a huge confidence-builder for me,” said Kincanon, who estimates he’s about 90 percent recovered from the injury. “Earlier this season, I couldn’t do anything the way I wanted in terms of explosiveness, my jump shot and even dribbling. I’m coming along better [now] and so is our team.”
Damonta Henry scored four points over the final 1:15 of the fourth quarter to also key the Bulldogs’ victory.
The Rebels’ Igor Cirkovic, who scored a game-high 25 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, missed a game-tying free throw with no time left on the clock to make the final score 61-60. Mike Morawiec chipped in 16 points for Ridgewood (11-7, 4-2).
Kincanon led RB with 21 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Henry had 17 points and six assists, while Miki Ljuboja and Jack VandeMerkt netted nine points apiece. Senior swingman Liam Lesniak — the Bulldogs’ best defender — held Rebels star Anthony Mroz in check.
Since a 3-3 start, the Bulldogs are on a tear with 10 wins over the last 11 games.
“We’ve put together a nice string of wins,” McCloskey said. “We’re healthy and playing good basketball, so all in all, it’s been a good stretch for us.”
RB visits Elmwood Park on Friday, Jan. 18 for a 7 p.m. tip-off. On Sunday, the Bulldogs will participate in the MLK Dream Classic hosted by Whitney Young.