The core of experience for this season’s Riverside-Brookfield High School girls basketball team can be traced back several years.
“I think that’s a major strength that we have, just chemistry,” said Luna Lloyd, one of five returning seniors. “All of the seniors and [junior Emily Organ] have been playing together since the fourth or fifth grade, so we’ve known each other for a really long time and have a super strong bond.”
The Bulldogs’ progress began soon after last season ended with a 58-51 loss to Simeon in the IHSA Class 4A Mother McAuley Regional semifinals. RBHS finished 11-20 overall and 1-9 in the Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division.
Jordan Mack now is in his second season as head coach after being a late promotion from the junior varsity.
“I would say they’ve had more time to adapt and adjust to the way I coach — real intense. It took a little while to get used to last year, but it’s coming along,” Mack said.
Seniors Devon Encher, Lena Lembcke, Ava Marrello and Bryce Pacourek, Lloyd and Organ all started at various times during last season’s lineup combinations.
Newcomers are juniors Amanda Buckley, Mayan Covarrubias, Niamh Larson, Julie Madera and Kelley Tyler and sophomore Alyssa Morris.
Mack said the returnees’ positions are “interchangeable,” other than center Encher. Morris will primarily play point guard after starting there for the sophomores.
Organ, a standout softball player, brings the most varsity experience. Older sister Hannah Organ, now playing softball at Miami (Ohio), was last season’s all-conference selection.
“We’re looking for some big things from [Emily], leadership. She’s been a lot more vocal,” Mack said. “We’re looking to push the tempo and go.”
One major benefit for these returnees was a complete offseason unlike the previous year, including weight training and summer and fall basketball to acquaint themselves with the varsity newcomers.
“I think it’s better that we had that instead of going straight into tryouts. It gives a good preview to the season, and I think we found out just from this that we can bond really well with the younger girls,” Marrello said.
The season opens this week at the Hinsdale South Thanksgiving Invitational.
“I just think a core thing for our team is communication with each other, especially on the court,” Lembcke said. “We’ve seen in practices when we talk more on the court, we play a lot better.”