The Riverside-Brookfield High School basketball team knew Proviso East would be a difficult matchup in St. Ignatius Regional championship game. The Bulldogs’ concern was warranted as the Pirates pulled off a 74-69 victory on Friday in Chicago,
RBHS, one of the top teams in the Chicago area and a Class 4A state title contender entering the postseason, finished the season with a 22-6 record.
In a tight game the entire way, the Bulldogs led 64-63 with about three minutes left in the fourth quarter before Proviso East went on an 11-5 run to close the game.
RBHS senior guard Daniko Jackson scored a basket to pull the Bulldogs within 72-69 with 9.2 seconds left in the game, but the Pirates’ David Ewing scored a layup at the final buzzer to secure a 74-69 win.
“Our team was trying to rebound and we were playing hard to match up to (Proviso East’s) intensity,” RBHS guard Daniko Jackson said. “They have a great coach (Donnie Boyce) and a great team. We just fell short.”
Trailing by 11 with less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, RBHS guard Ryan Cicenas’ 3-pointer from the left side triggered a 10-0 run to pull the Bulldogs within 54-53at the end of the third quarter
“We battled all the way until the end but fell a little short,” RBHS coach Tom McCloskey said. “I want to thank our seniors. They did things the right way and had a great run here. We will definitely miss them.”
Junior guard Jalen Clanton led RBHS with 20 points and senior swingman Skyler Nash contributed 15 points and eight rebounds. Senior center Mark Smith added a double-double of 11 points and 10 boards, while Jackson finished with nine points and nine assists.
Antonio Willilams scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down eight rebounds to lead Proviso East.
In the regional semifinals, RBHS topped Mather in a 103-88 shootout. Six players scored in double figures for the Bulldogs, led by Clanton’s spectacular performance of 27 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Henry Trelenberg (19 points, 5 rebounds), Nash (17 points, 14 rebounds), Cicenas (17 points, 5 rebounds), Smith (12 points, 6 rebounds) and Jackson (10 points, five assists) also contributed for the Bulldogs.
Despite an unexpected early exit from the playoffs, RBHS had another stellar season under the guidance of McCloskey. The Bulldogs went 12-0 in the Metro Suburban Conference to win their 15th consecutive conference title. The team also won its coveted Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Classic Tournament to kick off the season.
The Bulldogs even played well in losses, holding their own against elite competition like nationally-ranked Gonzaga Prep from Washington D.C. and in-state powers Fenwick, St. Joseph and Morgan Park.
“I’m very proud of this team. We’ve come a long way in four years,” Jackson said. “I wish we could have gone farther but all my teammates have always worked hard every single day. We were always getting better as a team.”
RBHS will lose a very good senior class, particularly with Jackson and Smith moving on. Clanton, Trelenberg and Cicenas return next season, however, to comprise potentially one of the best backcourts in the state. Amari Smith, Calvell Randall, Jalen Brooks and Tremaine Conley also return next season.
“We lost some close games this year and it was frustrating, but we also had a lot of great wins,” McCloskey said. “We’ll definitely rebound from this (loss to Proviso East). The underclassmen have a lot of experience and we will continue to build off that.”
-Marty Farmer contributed to this story