Regarded as two of the best players in the Metro Suburban Conference, Riverside-Brookfield guard Sam Bloom and Illiana Christian guard Gabrielle Kreykes waged quite a scoring duel Friday at RBHS.

Kreykes scored a game-high 40 points for the visiting Vikings, while Bloom had 32 points to lead the Bulldogs to a highly entertaining 74-66 win.

“We lost to this team last time so we came in with a different mentality,” RBHS senior guard Lyndsey Hoyd said. “We shared the ball, shot pretty well and did the best we could guarding [Kreykes].

“We’re a smaller team this year so we have to do the little things well to win.”

Bloom, the conference MVP last year, shot 9-of-23 from the field, including 6-for-9 behind the 3-point arc and 8-for-8 at the free throw line. She also had four rebounds and two assists, coupled with several dives on the court for loose balls.

“That was fun,” Bloom said about the shootout with Kreykes. “Even though she scored a lot of points, we defended well overall and everybody really stepped it up. This was our last regular season game at home so it’s a bittersweet win.”

In the first quarter, Bloom made four 3-pointers, a layup and pair of free throws en route to 16 points. Hoyd chipped in six points.

After Alyssa Murrin’s 3-pointer put the Vikings up 11-8 midway through the opening quarter, RBHS responded with 17-0 run to build a 26-11 lead.

Trailing 28-15 after the first quarter, Illiana Christian battled back courtesy of Kreykes. The 5-foot-10 senior, a St. Xavier University recruit, reeled off 13 points in the second quarter to pull the Vikings within 33-31 at halftime.

“We played a box-and-one [defense] last time and it didn’t stop her,” RBHS coach Dallas Till said. “We wanted to keep her out of the lane and force her to make 3-pointers. She made four or five of them. Kreykes is just a phenomenal player who is going to get hers. You just try to contain her.”

With RBHS leading 54-49 after three quarters, Kreykes scored five points in a row to tie the game at 54-all. Bloom and sophomore forward Maddie Meehan triggered an 8-1 run to reestablish an RBHS lead, 62-55, with 4:10 left in the fourth quarter.

The teams essentially traded buckets the rest of the way as the Bulldogs (21-9) notched an impressive conference victory.

Luckily, Bloom’s offensive explosion came close to matching Kreykes. Additionally, the Bulldogs benefitted from strong efforts by Hoyd (14 points, 4 rebounds), Meehan (13 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) and senior forward Maggie Shereck (11 points, 8 rebounds).

Leah Rettke also provided a major boost with a team-high 12 rebounds.

Kudos to Till as well who called multiple inbounds plays that led to baskets.

“Those plays are our ‘blobs’ (baseline out of bounds) and ‘slobs’ (sideline out of bounds),” Hoyd said. “We’ve been screening better on those plays which is why they worked.”

While Bloom and Hoyd comprise an excellent backcourt, the play of underrated interior players like Shereck and Meehan has been instrumental in the Bulldogs securing another 20-win season.

“[Assistant coach Mark] Ruge likes to call it fighting in the trenches,” Shereck said. “He works with us on post moves, boxing out and helping one another with rebounding.

“We are definitely excited about going into the playoffs with 21 wins and hosting a regional, which should give us a nice home court advantage.”

Reserves Therese Hanley, Sophia Bolton, Coco Murray and Vasara Kulbis also played well for RBHS.

A Class 4A regional host, the Bulldogs take on Argo Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. in their playoff opener at RBHS.