RBHS’ Arius Alijosius attempts to elude a Brother Rice defender during the Bulldogs’ 82-53 loss to the Crusaders at the RB Summer Shootout on June 18 in Riverside. (Alex Rogals/Staff Photographer)

Riverside-Brookfield High School rising junior boys basketball player Will Gonzalez learned quickly from his first RB Summer Shootout in 2021.

“I was kind of nervous my first game because I was never in front of so many coaches before,” Gonzalez said. “But then after that first game, you feel good. It’s just playing basketball.” 

The lone non-senior starter, Gonzalez and rising senior Arius Alijosius are among few key returnees from the Bulldogs’ successful past season that included conference and regional titles and Mike Reingruber being named the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year for Class 4A Region 8.

The 19th annual RB Summer Shootout on June 17-19 attracted 72 high school teams playing four 40-minute, half-court games apiece. More than 200 college coaches registered to observe.

“It helps us to get a little recognition as a team and how we’re going to be,” Gonzalez said. “It’s going to be a different season. Everybody else who is now a senior or myself as a junior has to step up and be leaders.” 

Lyons Township High School was among 26 teams that went 3-1. After losing Saturday’s opener to Glenbrook North 47-35, the Lions defeated Leo 63-60 that day and Westinghouse 71-56 and Naperville North 73-50 on June 19. 

RBHS lost to 2022 IHSA Class 4A state runner-up Whitney Young 76-53 and Oak Lawn 77-65 on June 17 and to Brother Rice 82-53 and Rich Township 62-58 on June 18. Whitney Young was among seven 4-0 teams.

“The summer is a time for coming together as a team, find out what your strengths as a team are, what your weaknesses are, what you really need to work on to be competitive in the greater worlds of high school basketball,” Reingruber said. 

Reingruber has been running the summer tournament since its inception with 24 teams. LTHS joined when the shootout became an NCAA-live event in 2019, allowing Division I coaches to observe. 

“[It’s] a great opportunity to play really good competition,” LTHS coach Tom Sloan said. “It shows the coaching staff what guys can do and hopefully individuals get to see what they need to improve on to get ready for the actual season where stuff matters.” 

The Lions are coming off reaching the IHSA Class 4A sectional finals. They lost to Whitney Young, which beat RBHS in the sectional semifinals.

“I love playing with our team. I just think we have good chemistry and that’s super good being so early in summer league,” said LTHS rising senior and returning starter Nik Polonowski. 

Nik Polonowski (Shanel Romain/Contributor)

Polonowski had 21 points against Westinghouse and Leo, where his three off a Jackson Niego pass with 31.1 seconds left put LTHS ahead 61-60. Polonowski added two free throws and blocked Leo’s last-second three-pointer. Graham Smith (10 points) and Louis Kaminski and Brady Chambers (8 points each) also were top scorers.

Carter Reid and Smith each had eight points against Glenbrook North. Other contributors included Connor Carroll, Matthew Desimone, Dylan Nelson and Liam Taylor.

Gonzalez had 20 points against Rich Township, which emerged from a 46-46 tie with 11 minutes left. Alijosius had 15 points on five threes.

Alijosius (24 points) and Gonzalez (20) were high scorers against Whitney Young. Other contributors included Steven Brown, Hunter Ferguson, Marques Turner, Rex Dockendorf and Zarija Grbovic.

The Bulldogs have played roughly 20 games and at five other mini-shootouts. 

“That’s what summer is for. We want to play the best competition possible,” Reingruber said.

“We definitely got closer as a team [this weekend], even though our results didn’t show,” Alijosius said. “We showed who we are and that we’re definitely a good team coming up. We just need to figure it out.”