The quarterfinals showdown in the championship bracket of the 11th Annual Riverside-Brookfield High School Summer Shootout between the host Bulldogs and Proviso East boys basketball teams lived up to the hype on Saturday.
Proviso East, the two-time defending champs of the prestigious two-day event, edged RBHS 66-63. The Bulldogs, who also won their summer shootout title two years in a row (2009, 2008) had multiple looks to tie the game in the closing seconds. Trailing 66-63, point guard Danico Jackson and forward Jack VandeMerkt launched three-pointers on the Bulldogs’ final possession only to come up short.
Riverside-Brookfield finished 2-2 overall at the shootout with wins over Providence-St. Mel and Marian Catholic and losses to Neuqua Valley and Proviso East.
“We wanted to play the toughest schedule possible and play well,” VandeMerkt said. “I think we did pretty good job. We’re going to have a lot of length next season in the post. The younger guys like Danico Jackson, Mark Smith and Paul Sitkiewicz coming up to varsity should be able to step right in and help us out.”
The Bulldogs trailed 36-18 at halftime before outscoring the Pirates 45-30 in the second half to mount a furious comeback. Six-foot-5 swingman Sam Johnson fueled the rally with several timely long distance jump shots, while the ultra-quick Jackson directed the offense beautifully with several superb assists.
Division-I prospect Jevon Carter led the Pirates.
“Proviso East is always quick and athletic,” RBHS coach Tom McCloskey said. “We become a better by playing a team of that caliber. In the second half, we did a better job of limiting our turnovers and we were right within striking distance at the end.”
VandeMerkt (6-foot-7), Mark Smith (6-7), Johnson (6-5) and Paul Sitkiewicz (6-4) showed glimpses of how dominant the young but promising RBHS frontline could be next season. Kincanon, who missed Saturday’s game against Proviso East, is a projected starter that will add even more size in the lineup next season. Jackson and Kevin Fitzgerald will also play key roles in the backcourt next year.
York won the tournament over Morgan Park. The Dukes led 18-12 with five minutes remaining in the first half before Morgan Park lost on a forfeit. York 6-8 forward Frank Toohey was named the RBHS Summer Shootout MVP.
The shootout annually features some of the premier teams and players from Chicago and the suburbs. This year, outstanding teams including Simeon, Whitney Young, Proviso East, Morgan Park, Stevenson and Curie competed along with major Division-I recruits like Curie’s Cliff Alexander, Stevenson’s Jalen Brunson and Zion-Benton’s Milik Yarbrough.
“We love coming to Riverside-Brookfield because it’s one of the best run summer shootouts,” Simeon coach Robert Smith said. “The competition level is excellent, and it’s fun to see so many great teams and players at one tournament.”