Since Dallas Till took over the head coaching job of the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls basketball team four years ago, the Bulldogs have won the annual Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Tournament championship every season.
RBHS won five games, four in blowout fashion, en route to the title over the weekend. After cruising to wins over Guerin (65-22), Ridgewood (60-27) and Lisle (51-26), the Bulldogs were tested against Morton on Friday, but RBHS emerged with a 54-49 victory.
The Mustangs held a 12-11 lead after one quarter before the Bulldogs pulled ahead 25-21 at halftime. RBHS extended its lead to 11 after three quarters. Morton made one final push in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs’ balanced effort proved too much to overcome.
Sophomore center Dana Rettke led the way for RBHS with 14 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, while fellow sophomore Samantha Bloom contributed 15 points, three steals and two assists. Like the 6-foot-7 Rettke, senior forward Janae Dabney also notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards. Dabney led the team in scoring, rebounds and steals in the tournament.
“We kind of breezed through the first three games, but we knew Morton would be tough,” Till said. “That was our first real test and we responded well. Unfortunately, I don’t think our conditioning is where it needs to be. I figured out a lot about what we need to work on moving forward.”
Reserves Natalia Gheewala, Angela Comicho and Elexis Walker provided a nice boost, particularly on defense, throughout the tournament.
“Our bench players might not be household names in our lineup, but they play a big role in our success,” Till said. “They gave us nice energy and really sparked the team.”
While the Bulldogs have room for improvement, Till was pleased with the team’s performance.
“It couldn’t have gone better to be honest with you,” he said. “After earning a tough, stressful win against Morton, we could have had a letdown but we didn’t. We kind of dominated West Chicago and played with great energy. I love the cohesiveness of our team, especially at such an early point in the season.”
The Bulldogs (6-0) defeated West Chicago 64-44 in their tourney finale. Dabney (17 points) and Rettke (14 points) controlled the paint. In the second quarter, Rettke scored four straight baskets as RBHS pushed out to a 42-21 advantage. Bloom finished with 11 points and Lyndsey Hoyd chipped in nine points. Gheewala continued her solid play with seven points.
“We have only one game this week, so we’ll go back to the drawing board,” Till said. “We will look at some film and focus on getting better in practice. Then, we’ll venture into conference play which is a bit of an unknown with so many new teams. That’s a good thing.”
RBHS hosts Immaculate Conception on Thursday, Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. in its Metro Suburban Conference opener.