It seemed like a one-sided game early Thursday night, but the Riverside-Brookfield girls basketball team quickly turned the Class 4A regional championship on their home court into a thrilling down-to-the-wire matchup.
Despite their efforts, the feisty Lady Bulldogs (24-5) had to settle for a 52-50 loss to Proviso East. Riverside-Brookfield found itself down by 18 points midway through the second quarter, but senior guard Hanna Claywell fueled a 7-0 run to start the third with a basket from the middle followed by a layup on a breakaway. The Bulldogs held Proviso East scoreless through the first 3:30 of the third frame, and outscored the Pirates 14-6 to head into the fourth trailing 41-38.
“The first half was rough, but in the second half we really came together,” said Claywell. “We knew we were going to be able to come back. This team has so much heart and so much chemistry, and everyone wanted it so bad.”
Sophomore forward/center Janae Dabney converted on a free-throw to get the Bulldogs to within one late in the fourth, and senior forward Brittney JnoBabtiste did the same on both of her attempts to give her team a 47-46 lead with 2:56 left to play in the game. The Pirates answered with back-to-back layups to get back in front by three, but JnoBaptiste tied it up again with a three-pointer from the left side on a pass from junior guard Caroline Waas with 1:03 to go.
“We just had a rush of energy,” said sophomore guard Miranda Chavez. “We really wanted to win, and we knew we deserved to win. We’ve had big comebacks before, so we knew it could be done. We really wanted to do it for our seniors; they’re great people to look up to.”
Sophomore guard Angela Comicho tried to keep the Bulldogs alive with a shot from the right side with 11 seconds left, but Pirates sophomore guard Datasia Almon grabbed the rebound as the shot bounced off of the rim and scored on a breakaway to seal the deal for Proviso East.
“We went out there and did what we had to do,” Claywell said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way. We can fight, and we’ve done it before.”
Claywell led the Bulldogs with 19 points, while Dabney tallied nine and JnoBaptiste notched seven. The Pirates, who had just upset highly ranked Trinity in the second round of the regional on Tuesday, were led by senior guard Diamond Courts’ 18 points.
Claywell said she is extremely proud of her team and its success in her final season at Riverside-Brookfield.
“Ever since my freshman year, I’ve just loved (Riverside-Brookfield) basketball,” she said. “I love the coaches and my teammates. We’ve had great teams in years past, but this has been the most special because we just get along so well. I’m going to miss them so much.”