Joe Gilhooley (left) knocked down 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and hauled down 10 rebounds during Riverside-Brookfield High School's 60-49 win over St. Francis on Feb. 1. He also scored 12 during the Bulldogs' 64-52 win over Morton on Feb. 5. | File

Senior Joe Gilhooley and his Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball teammates are happy to be back playing at the level they did earlier this season.

With the Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division lead on the line, the Bulldogs delivered a great performance at St. Francis for a 60-49 victory Feb. 1.

With three MSC games remaining, the Bulldogs (18-4, 8-1 in MSC Blue) are one loss ahead of the second-place Spartans (21-7, 8-2).

“We just handled business there. We knew it was the biggest conference game of the year for us,” Gilhooley said. “We really locked in. It felt back to when we were playing before Christmas.”

On Dec. 7 after the Bulldogs defeated St. Francis 61-55, they were rolling with a 9-1 record. Then they went into COVID-19 quarantine and didn’t play again for a full month.

In the rematch, Gilhooley (16 points on 7-for-8 shooting, 10 rebounds) and seniors J.P. Hanley (12 points, 9 rebounds) and Joevonn McCottry (11 points, 4 assists) all reached double figures.

The Bulldogs made 22 of 49 shots with eight threes and opened a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

“It was a must win for us and the guys definitely responded and they played through the good and bad and showed some toughness,” RBHS coach Mike Reingruber said. “They were dialed in at practice, locked in and really focused for the game.”

Great defense helped the Bulldogs win their fourth straight, 64-52 over Morton on Feb. 5 behind McCottry (14 points, 7 rebounds), Gilhooley (12 points), Hanley (10 points, 14 rebounds) and sophomore Will Gonzalez (9 points). McCottry was the primary defender on senior guard Eliseo Gonzalez, Morton’s leading scorer who was limited to three points.

“I always take pride in guarding the team’s best player. But it was a team effort, an entire team effort,” McCottry said. “The effort was there. We all played together and on the same page.”

LTHS rebounds after tough loss to OPRF

The Lyons Township boys basketball team continues finding offensive options.

The latest is senior Will Carroll, whose three second-half three-pointers helped the Lions finish off Downers Grove North 59-44 on Feb. 4 in West Suburban Conference Silver Division action.

The Trojans challenged the Lions (20-5, 7-3 in WSC-Silver) offensively after Tavari Johnson had 18 of his 24 points by halftime. Nik Polonowski (9 points), Aidan Sullivan (6 points), Jackson Niego (5 points, 5 assists) and recent DePauw commit Billy Bach and Graham Smith (5 rebounds each) also contributed.

“Will was able to able to step out and hit a couple of open shots,” LTHS coach Tom Sloan said of Carroll, who finished with nine points.

“If he’s starting to gain that confidence to shoot that shot, it can really put defenses in a difficult position. He’s such a hard worker and I’m just happy to see him get those opportunities and have that success.”

A rough first half cost the Lions in a 65-63 loss at Oak Park and River Forest High School on Feb. 1. Polonowski and Johnson each scored 14 points, followed by Niego (10 points) and Carroll (8 points).

The Lions now are tied for second in the WSC-Silver with OPRF (13-9, 6-3) in the loss column after their inspired home performance in losing to top-rated Glenbard West 62-50 Jan. 28. LTHS closed to 52-50 with under four minutes left before big plays by Gonzaga recruit Braden Huff helped the Hilltoppers pull away.

“We would have preferred a different result, but our kids played their tails off and did a nice job of competing with a team that’s outstanding,” Sloan said.

LTHS cut a double-digit halftime deficit at OPRF to one in the final minutes but a key three-pointer by Justin Mullins and free throws helped the Huskies survive. Sullivan hit a three at the buzzer.

“In our league with the teams that you play, if you have a bad half, that means that you’re probably going to have a bad outcome,” Sloan said.

On Feb. 5, the Lions secured 20 victories for the third full season in a row after defeating Hinsdale South 63-31. Johnson (18 points, 5 assists), Polonowski (13 points) and Smith (12 points) reached double figures.