The Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball team starts four seniors — Joe Gilhooley, J.P. Hanley, Joevonn McCottry and Brady Vaia – and their experience has been essential for the Bulldogs, who defeated Oak Park and River Forest High School 67-62 to win their own IHSA Class 4A regional title on Feb. 25.
“They deserve this for how hard they’ve worked and what they mean to the culture of our program,” said RBHS coach Mike Reingruber.
Gilhooley had a game-high 24 points and added 7 rebounds. Afterwards, he was emotional about winning his final high school home game.
“This is the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “We knew it was going to be tough, but I can’t imagine [my home career] ending in a better way.”
Keyed by strong efforts from Gilhooley and sophomore Will Gonzalez — who each scored 10 points — RBHS (23-5) closed the first half on a 10-0 run to take a 33-26 halftime lead.
But OPRF (16-11) rallied in the third quarter, outscoring the Bulldogs 24-17. The Huskies’ Sam Lewis poured in eight of his team-high 21 points to tie the game at 50 after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, RBHS went 15-of-16 from the free-throw line.
“We work on them every single day in practice and we put them in pressure situations,” Reingruber said. “We’ve got great shooters and confident kids, and that showed tonight.”
A layup by McCottry (12 points) with 2:02 remaining broke a 57-57 tie and put the Bulldogs ahead to stay. It was their only basket of the quarter.
OPRF’s Justin Mullins (17 points) made one of two free throws with 1:24 left to cut RBHS’ lead to 59-58. The Huskies then let nearly 50 seconds elapse before fouling Vaia. He calmly sank two free throws to give the Bulldogs a 61-58 lead.
After a timeout with 29.3 seconds left, OPRF’s Keaghan Elmiger’s three-point attempt hit the side of the backboard and was rebounded by Gilhooley, who was then fouled. He hit two more free throws to give RBHS a 63-58 advantage with 21.4 seconds left.
Mullins scored twice on layups inside 20 seconds, but Gonzalez (14 points) and Vaia each made two more free throws to keep the Bulldog’s lead out of reach of the Huskies.
Hanley added 10 points, five rebounds, and four assists for the Bulldogs, who advanced to the IHSA sectional semifinal round at Proviso West on March 1, after the Landmark’s press time, to face Whitney Young. The Dolphins won the Chicago Public League championship and are considered a top contender for the Class 4A title.