Senior Joevonn McCottry and his Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball teammates won’t soon forget last season’s final game with Timothy Christian.
With the Metro Suburban Conference championship at stake, the Bulldogs lost at home in overtime to mark only the second time since 2002 that they didn’t win conference.
“I just remember the shot that I made was the shot that sent it to overtime, but other than that, I couldn’t hit anything,” McCottry said. “We were a bunch of juniors and we couldn’t hit a shot. It was just the story of the game.”
In the teams’ first meeting this season on Jan. 14, McCottry sank his first four three-point attempts in the first quarter.
They helped the Bulldogs set the tone for a 71-59 victory that keeps them atop of the MSC at the halfway point. RBHS (13-2, 5-0) currently leads by one game over St. Francis.
“I had a chip on my shoulder this whole week,” said McCottry, who finished with 24 points and five of the team’s 12 threes.
“[Last season’s loss] left a bad taste in our mouth so [coach Mike Reingruber] really emphasized us being the seniors, us being the leaders, we’ve got to come out strong in our conference play. So, we all stepped up to the plate.”
Senior J.P. Hanley had 17 points – 15 in the second half with three three-pointers – and six rebounds, sophomore Will Gonzalez had 12 points and senior Joe Gilhooley had six points and five rebounds.
Three days earlier, the Bulldogs avenged their other MSC defeat last season with a 77-49 victory at Wheaton Academy.
“We kind of termed this Revenge Week and we took care of business, so that was good,” Reingruber said. “We played great at Wheaton Academy. We came out right from the start, never really let up.”
Against Timothy Christian, RBHS used six first-quarter threes to lead 20-10 after one quarter. Timothy Christian (9-13, 5-2) closed to 27-22 late in the second quarter before Hanley’s driving layup for a 29-22 halftime advantage.
RBHS began the third quarter with a 10-4 run and led by at least nine points the rest of the way.
“[The OT loss] definitely stung a little bit. We knew this was going to be a big game so we prepped really hard,” Hanley said.
Hanley especially worked hard defending Timothy Christian’s 6-foot-7 senior and Furman recruit Ben VanderWal (23 points, 8 rebounds), who had 11 points, including three three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Hanley and VanderWal previously were AAU traveling basketball team mates for more than four years.
“We both give each other our best shot,” Hanley said. “We both competed really hard and brought it today. But we ended the game well.”
Against Wheaton Academy, McCottry had 16 points. DaMahrion Murrell, Hanley and Gilhooley chipped in 11 each and Arius Alijosius scored nine on three threes. Brady Vaia had five assists.
Gilhooley (20 points), Hanley (18) and Cory Baker (10) led the Bulldogs on Jan. 17 in their 78-75 victory over Plainfield Central at the Martin Luther King Jr. Classic at Hyde Park.