The worst case scenario — which is actually pretty encouraging — is the Riverside-Brookfield boys basketball team has already clinched at minimum a share of its 12th-straight conference championship. The Bulldogs secured at least their half of the Metro Suburban Conference title with a 76-62 victory over visiting Glenbard South on Friday.
Then again, RB isn’t exactly into splitting conference hardware as evidenced by its lengthy run of league dominance.
If the Bulldogs (19-5, 10-0) defeat arch-rival Ridgewood this week (Friday, 7 p.m.) at Dudley Gymnasium, RB earns another outright league championship. With two conference games left to play, the Bulldogs hold a two-game lead over the Rebels. RB beat Ridgewood earlier this year, 61-60 on Jan. 11, as junior Will Kincanon had his best performance of the season with 21 points.
“It’s always a close, fun game with a great atmosphere when we play Ridgewood,” RB center Miki Ljuboja said. “It’s obviously the biggest game of our season and we’re looking forward to it.”
Against Glenbard South, the Bulldogs controlled the game throughout, building a 40-24 halftime advantage and extending their lead to as many as 23 points in the third quarter.
The Raiders made a couple of minor runs in the fourth quarter before RB pulled away for the victory.
RB senior guard Damonta Henry dazzled in the backcourt by putting up 28 points and seven assists. Post players Jack VandeMerkt (19 points) and Ljuboja (17 points, 11 rebounds) provided ample inside punch.
“We knew we can score buckets, so our emphasis has been on getting it done defensively,” Henry said. “We’ve been playing good team basketball. The playoffs aren’t far away so sometimes your mind wanders about that, but we’re taking it one game at a time.”
RB also edged Illiana Christian 64-62 (Feb. 5) in another conference tilt last week. Senior swingman Liam Lesniak, known for his exemplary defensive work, exploded for 21 points, including 15 in the first half as RB held a 36-30 lead at the break.
“We always try to look inside to Miki and get the ball to Damonta because they are tremendous scorers,” Lesniak said, “but coach [Tom McCloskey] also tells us if you’re open take the shot.”
Ljuboja recorded a double-double with 11 points and 17 rebounds, while VandeMerkt also reached double figures by scoring 12 points in addition to pulling down four boards.
After this Friday’s game against Ridgewood, the Bulldogs will close out their regular season with a pair of home games, Feb. 19 against St. Charles East and Feb. 22 against Elmwood Park on Senior Night. Both start at 7 p.m.