The Riverside-Brookfield boys basketball team’s rematch against Ridgewood on Friday night lived up to its considerable hype, but it didn’t go the way the Bulldogs would have liked.
With an opportunity to clinch an outright Metro Suburban Conference championship, RB was forced to settle for a 71-65 overtime loss to the Rebels.
“Down the stretch, Ridgewood made all the plays,” RB center Miki Ljuboja said. “They got to all the loose balls and found the open guys. They just outworked us.
“We need to refocus, because if we don’t play hard against St. Charles East [on Tuesday] which is a good team, we’ll lose by 20.”
Coupled with its 61-60 victory on Jan. 11 in Norridge, Ridgewood completed an impressive season sweep of the Bulldogs. RB can still secure sole possession of the conference championship with a win over visiting Elmwood Park on Senior Night in the regular season finale on Friday (7 p.m.).
With one league game remaining for both the Bulldogs and Rebels, RB (19-6, 10-1) has already earned at least a share of the Metro Suburban Conference title.
Ridgewood (17-7, 9-2) appeared in control late against RB, holding a 60-54 lead with 1:11 left in regulation. The Bulldogs went on a 7-1 run to force overtime, courtesy of seven points, collectively, from Miki Ljuboja and Eric Loury. Loury made a tough floater in the lane with 30 seconds left and Ljuboja added an inside bucket with eight seconds left to tie the game.
Ridgewood aided the Bulldogs’ comeback with some missed free throws and turnovers.
In the closing seconds, the Rebels’ Mike Morawiec attempted a game-winning three-pointer which was blocked by RB guard Damonta Henry.
In overtime, Loury scored on another runner off an assist from Liam Lesniak to put RB up 63-62 at the 3:32 mark, but the Rebels went on a 9-2 run the rest of the way to notch an inspired road victory and extend their win-streak to seven games.
“My hat’s off to Ridgewood,” RB coach Tom McCloskey said. “They shot it great and played a great game. Our kids didn’t quit and came back to force overtime when things looked bleak, but [tonight’s loss] it’s just one of those things.
“We have two very important games next week and the state playoffs coming, so we need to regain our momentum. This is a big time of the year for us.”
Ljuboja paced RB with a double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds, while Henry netted 14 points. Jack VandeMerkt had 11 points and seven rebounds. Loury contributed nine points and Lesniak chipped in six along with his customary hard-nosed defense.
“Defensively, we could have helped each other a little more and [committed] less fouls in overtime,” Loury said. “Early in the game, we didn’t close out on their shooters as well as we should have. We made a lot of little mistakes; take a few of those back and it would have made a difference.”
Adam Krozel served as the clutch hero for Ridgewood by scoring 19 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter and overtime.