The Riverside-Brookfield and Lyons Township High School boys basketball teams always put on a good show when they meet on the basketball court. Saturday’s edition of the annual game was no exception.
The host Bulldogs stormed out to a 22-point lead and then survived a furious rally by the Lions to eke out a 77-74 victory in Riverside.
“It’s a big win,” RBHS coach Tom McCloskey said. “We played as well as we can play in the first half. We had some tough stretches in the second half. It got a little scary at the end but we hung on.”
The Bulldogs (4-2) shot the lights out in the first half, making 16 of 32 field goal attempts, including an 8-for-16 showing from three-point range.
“We shot the ball well in the first half,” McCloskey said. “[RBHS senior guard] Will Kincanon had a great first half and had a great overall game for us.”
Kincanon, who scored a game-high 28 points, made five three-pointers, including one early in the third quarter that gave the Bulldogs a 52-30 cushion. The senior swingman missed much of last season due to a severely sprained left ankle. Now, he’s back and apparently better than ever.
“This year, I have the ball in my hands more and I just feel more comfortable,” Kincanon said. “I’m a rhythm player so being able to play in games consistently [compared to last season] obviously helps me a lot. If we can play like we did in the first half against LT for a full 32 minutes, I think we’re going to be a very dangerous team.”
Despite the offensive prowess of Kincanon and his teammates, LTHS stormed back, twice cutting the deficit to one point in the final minute. A three-pointer from Jim Cullen pulled the Lions (3-2) within 75-74 with 15 seconds remaining.
The Bulldogs made 9 of 13 free-throw attempts in the final 79 seconds, including 7 of 8 by Kincanon, but they left the door open a jar at the end. Following Cullen’s trey, Kincanon split a pair of foul shots and Harrison Niego missed a three-pointer that would have given the Lions the lead.
Daniko Jackson then split a pair of free throws for the Bulldogs with six seconds left for a three-point lead. The Lions’ Griffin Furlong last-second shot from half-court was off the mark.
“They played really well,” LTHS coach Tom Sloan said. “In the first quarter they made six threes and they made two more in the second quarter. We didn’t do a good enough job contesting shots, defending the drive or blocking out. In all of the aspects of defense we did not play well.
“We talked about that at halftime. [The Lions] executed defensive fundamentals better the whole second half. It gave us some chances to run down the floor and get some easy baskets and it started getting us in a rhythm.”
Chris Hester sparked the Lions’ comeback by scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter and led LTHS with 23 points, while Niego had 12 of his 18 points in the second half.
“We battled all the way back,” Sloan said. “We just need to do a better job of being a tough, hard-nosed defensive team on every possession.”
Jack VandeMerkt added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulldogs. Sam Johnson (11 points, eight rebounds) and Jackson (seven points, eight assists) also contributed for RBHS.
Both squads were coming off Friday night victories in their respective conference openers.
RBHS opened Metro Suburban Conference play by routing Fenton 85-34 as VandeMerkt scored 17 points and Mark Smith added 16 points and seven rebounds. Kevin Fitzgerald tallied 12 points, including a half-court shot at the buzzer, and Paul Sitkiewicz chipped in 11 points.
The Lions beat Glenbard West 69-56 in West Suburban Conference Silver Division action. Hester led the way with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Niego chipped in 13 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Mike Mrazek added eight rebounds and Sam Cybulski dished out five assists.
“Any time we can win a game in our league it is a good win,” Sloan said. “We played well in three of the four quarters.”
The Bulldogs visit Illiana Christian Friday (7:30 p.m.) in a Metro Suburban Conference matchup, while the Lions travel to Elmhurst to take on York. Both games are Friday with 7:30 p.m. tip offs. LTHS returns home Saturday for a 5 p.m. nonconference game against Sandburg.