Considering the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball team is virtually unbeatable in conference play, it looks like the best, albeit rare, formula to beat the Bulldogs is when a premier player from a nonconference opponent goes off offensively.
Evanston’s 6-foot-5 sophomore point guard Nojel Eastern, already being recruited by several major Division I college basketball programs, scorched RBHS for a career-high 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the Wildkits’ 66-63 upset over the Bulldogs on Saturday.
“Nojel Eastern is a great player,” RBHS coach Tom McCloskey said. “I know he’s a Division 1 recruit. I heard that Kentucky has expressed some interest in him, so obviously you’re pretty talented if Kentucky is asking about you.
“We still had a great chance to win the game. I thought it was a great battle and games like this one help prepare us for the state tournament. [RBHS guard] Daniko [Jackson] had a very good look on the last shot of the game but it just didnt fall for us.”
The only other Bulldogs loss this season occurred against Lake Forest, 69-42, in the championship game of the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament. Tournament MVP Evan Boudreaux racked up a game-high 29 points and 14 rebounds for the Scouts. The Dartmouth-bound Boudreaux set tournament records for total points (145) and rebounds (69). Teammate Noah Karras, a University of Chicago recruit, contributed 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 5-for-7 from beyond the three-point arc.
Unlike their game against Lake Forest and the sensational 6-8 Boudreaux, however, the Bulldogs (17-2, 7-0 Metro Suburban Conference) had a good look at defeating Evanston despite Eastern’s performance.
Trailing 66-63 in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, RBHS junior guard Daniko Jackson attempted a game-tying three-pointer that rimmed out at the buzzer.
Sophomore guard Jalen Clanton paced RBHS with 21 points and senior forward Sam Johnson contributed 20 points and nine rebounds. Jackson also played well with 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
RBHS salvaged a split of its two games over the weekend via its 73-60 victory at Illiana Christian. After the host Vikings held a 38-35 halftime advantage, the Bulldogs clamped down defensively in the second half by limiting their opponent to just 22 points in the second half.
“It was a very good win for us in a tough environment on the road,” RBHS coach Tom McCloskey said. “We had contributions from a lot of players which is common to our success. We’re a tough team to face because we have a lot of guys who can score and impact a game in a variety of ways.”
Johnson racked up 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Jackson (13 points, six assists, four rebounds) and Henry Trelenberg (11 points, five rebounds) also led the way. Junior center Mark Smith, who has been playing particularly well in recent games, scored 16 points on 8-for-9 shooting and hauled down eight boards.
RBHS visits Wheaton Academy on Friday, Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m.