Bloom, averaging 12.5 points and 3.2 assists, has played in all 26 games this season for RBHS. (File photo)

After Samantha Bloom earned the starting point guard spot as a freshman on the Riverside-Brookfield High School varsity basketball team last season, the combo guard’s talent was evident from the season opener.

Bloom’s toughness and leadership have emerged as additional attributes this season.

During the Bulldog’s 52-37 win over Immaculate Conception on Jan. 23, Bloom broke her nose when she collided with an IC defender.

“I was dribbling the ball and when I turned her [IC player] face hit my nose, which was immediately broken,” Bloom said. “I wanted to keep playing and I told my coach [Dallas Till] that I was fine. He felt it was for the best to take me out of the game.”

While the decision to remove his prized point guard from the game was a no-brainer, Till couldn’t help but marvel at Bloom’s determination and toughness.

“When I came over to see her on the court, that epitomized for me what Sam is about as a player” Till said. “The top of her nose was literally over by one of her eyes. She told me she wasn’t coming out of the game. Finally, I was able to get her to leave the court reluctantly. Aside from breaking her nose, Sam has had issues with her back and legs this season.

“She’s a true gamer. Sam fires up a lot of shots and we need her to score, but she’s also a very unselfish player who cares most of all about winning.”

After her injury and a visit to the doctor’s office, Bloom was back on the court in four days playing with a protective mask.

Since her return, the Bulldogs (23-3, 6-2 Metro Suburban Conference) have won three games in a row.

“It’s hard wearing the mask because I can’t see the ball or my feet when I’m looking straight ahead,” Bloom said. “I’m adjusting pretty well though. It’s making me a stronger ball handler. The doctor wants me to wear the mask the rest of the season. It will take my nose about two weeks to set but I should be fine.”

Bloom scored the first eight points during Friday’s 58-36 win over visiting Leyden. She finished with 11 points in limited minutes, while fellow sophomore stars Lyndsey Hoyd (15 points, 3 assists) and Dana Rettke (13 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks) also led RBHS. Bloom is averaging 12.5 points, 3.2 assists and 2.1 steals this season. She’s also made 45 three-pointers and is shooting 77 percent (53-for-69) from the free throw line.

Bloom and Hoyd, who have been playing basketball together since the fourth grade, complement each other perfectly. Their dads, Bill Bloom and Gary Hoyd, organized and run the Riverside-Brookfield Girls Junior Bulldogs program.

“Playing in the Junior Bulldogs together taught Sam and I how to play together,” Hoyd said. “We played against older girls and learned how to be competitive and stronger with the ball.”

While playing on the Junior Bulldogs with Hoyd and Rettke, along with Oak Park and River Forest players like Chardonnay Harris, Katie Mullins and Molly Cullinane, Bloom developed a keen sense of competition at an early age. In the offseason, she plays for Illinois Elite.

“My goal is to play college basketball,” Bloom said. “It’s not all about going Division I, but finding a college that’s the right fit for me. I just love playing basketball.”

Rettke, a 6-7 sophomore center who’s drawing Division I recruiting interest for both basketball and volleyball, believes Bloom is a huge reason for the team’s success.

“Obviously Sam is a great basketball player but she’s also a great person,” Rettke said. “She always keeps her spirits up and encourages her teammates.”

The Bulldogs host Aurora Central Catholic on Thursday at 7 p.m. RBHS closes out the regular season with a pair of road games at Wheaton Academy on Feb. 7 and at Aurora Central Catholic on Feb. 9. Both games start at 7:30 p.m.