The Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball team’s season ended on Friday but not without a fight. Trailing Proviso East by 11 points early in the third quarter, the Bulldogs went on a 14-4 run to pull within two points at the 1:44 mark of the quarter. With Proviso East clinging to a 44-41 lead in the closing seconds of the third, RBHS senior guard Will Kincanon nailed a three-pointer to tie the game at 44-all to end the period and send the Bulldogs’ famous “6th Man” fans into a frenzy.
In the end, Proviso East held off RBHS 72-65 in the Elk Grove Regional final of the Class 4A playoffs.
“[At the end of the third quarter] I was on top of the world; we were on top of the world as a team,” Kincanon said. “We thought we had [Proviso East]. We played really hard to get back in the game and come back from being down 10 points at the half.”
However, the Pirates’ relentless pressure finally broke down the Bulldogs for good in the fourth quarter. Consecutive turnovers by RBHS triggered a key 8-0 spurt by Proviso East to essentially seal the outcome. RBHS committed 20 turnovers overall, including 10 in the first quarter. The Pirates also stepped up their offensive production in the fourth quarter.
“[Proviso East] just started hitting shots in the fourth quarter,” RBHS junior forward Sam Johnson said. “They were hitting shots and we weren’t hitting ours.”
Senior forward Jack VandeMerkt paced the Bulldogs with 18 points and 12 rebounds, while junior guard Kevin Fitzgerald contributed 14 points. Johnson added a double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Kincanon had 10 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard Daniko Jackson also contributed three assists to go with his four points.
In the regional semifinals, RBHS defeated Wheaton North 76-60. Kincanon put up 23 points and 12 boards, while VandeMerkt chipped in 17 points and six rebounds. Johnson (12 points, seven rebounds) and Jackson (seven points, six assists) also played well for the Bulldogs.
RBHS (21-7, 12-0 Metro Suburban Conference) enjoyed another successful season under veteran coach Tom McCloskey. RBHS surpassed 20 wins and claimed its 13th straight conference title. Jackson, Fitzgerald and Johnson along with forwards Mark Smith and Paul Sitkiewicz all return next season.
VandeMerkt and Kincanon, two of the premier players in the Metro Suburban Conference, are seniors who left their mark within the Bulldogs’ tradition of success. VandeMerkt, all-Metro Suburban Conference in the high jump in track, and Kincanon, an all-state baseball player who has signed with Middle Tennessee State, will turn their attention to those sports this spring in closing out their impressive high school athletic careers.