Riverside-Brookfield kept things close against a tough Chicago Christian team, but it was the Knights that came out on top and hand the Bulldogs their first conference loss of the season.

The Bulldogs (5-3, 1-1) were edged out 66-61 at Riverside-Brookfield on Dec. 13. With RBHS down 56-54 with 3:05 to play in the game, sophomore wing JP Hanley tied the game with a shot from the right. Senior point guard Nate Schoditsch then drove to the basket on the Bulldogs’ next possession and made his shot from the right to give the Bulldogs a 58-56 lead with 2:47 to go.

“I really just wanted to win, and I thought we needed to bring the pressure up to get ahead,” Hanley said. “It was really essential that we did that.”

The Bulldogs would keep their lead alive with just under two minutes to play in the game, as senior wing Paul Zilinskas put in a shot after nabbing an offensive rebound from Schoditsch’s shot attempt to put RBHS up 60-58. Chicago Christian would then tie the game once more with consecutive free throws from junior guard Phoenix Smith. The free throws were the start of the Knights’ 8-1 run to end the game and seal their victory.

“Chicago Christian is a good team and they have some great players,” Reingruber said. “But we didn’t play our brand of basketball.”

Senior wing Jack Stivers led the way for the Bulldogs with 12 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, while Hanley tallied 11 and Zilinskas put up 10 points and led the team with 10 rebounds. Senior point guard Luke Gentile dished out a team-high 6 assists, while Schoditsch had 5 assists to go with his 8 points.

“Our shooting was a positive,” Hanley said. “Shooting, passing and getting the ball moving a bit.”

The Bulldogs opened their scoring in the fourth quarter with a 13-6 run, as senior guard Ryan Gaynor drained a three-point shot from the left with 6:30 left to play in the game to get his team within five points. Senior forward Jamir Truman followed with a layup from the left, and after Knights junior small forward Tommy Schaaf scored on a layup, Hanley put up back to back three-point shots from the left to continue RBHS’ run. The run was capped off by a tip-in by Schoditsch to give the Bulldogs a 54-53 lead with 3:29 to play in the game.

“It was a close game, and we always believe we can win,” said Reingruber. “We always teach competitiveness here, and when it’s a couple possession game there’s never a doubt that we can come back. I want guys playing with confidence, and [Hanley] does that.”

Down 42-36 with 3:20 to play in the third, the Bulldogs kept things close again as Schoditsch put up a layup from the left to get Riverside-Brookfield within four points. He would then cap off the Bulldogs’ scoring in the third quarter with a shot from the middle with 27 seconds left to end the third quarter trailing 45-41.

The Bulldogs still have many conference games to gain plenty of ground, and they know they’re still capable of making a big run against some tough teams as they keep working even harder.

“We’ll definitely focus on offensive rebounding, toughness, and playing harder,” Hanley said.

“The last two games, we’ve been out-toughed,” Reingruber said. “Teams have been getting too many offensive rebounds on us and we’ve had too many turnovers, and those are two areas you need to excel at if you want to win. You have to control the glass and take care of the ball. We didn’t do those things tonight, but I know our guys can.”

While the Bulldogs couldn’t fend off Chicago Christian, they did bounce back on Dec. 14 against De Le Salle in the Team Rose Shootout at Mt. Carmel High School. Zilinskas poured in 17 points while John Paul Hanley stepped up with 11 points. Meehan and Hanley had 5 rebounds respectively while Meehan dished out 7 assists.