Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball coach Mike Reingruber figured his young team would be in for a challenge against Benet Academy in the Chicago Elite Classic Dec. 2 at Credit One Arena on the University of Illinois at Chicago campus.

The Redwings have been one of the Chicago area’s consistently strong programs over the years and put the Bulldogs in an early hole en route to a 58-42 victory.

“Benet is very good and has a lot of experience,” Reingruber said. “They’re well-coached and did a nice job right from the start taking it to us.”

A 3-point barrage spearheaded by Benet’s Brady Kunka (game-high 20 points) and Niko Abusara (15 points) put RBHS behind in the first half. The Bulldogs trailed 34-19 at halftime, and although they fared better in the second half, they were never able to get their deficit back within single digits.

“We fought and had a few chances in the second half but couldn’t convert on a couple of layups,” Reingruber said. “We just dug ourselves a pretty big hole early.”

Arius Alijosius led RBHS with 12 points while Will Gonzalez added nine points.

“The thing we learned most is that you can’t just go through the motions,” Reingruber said. “You’ve got to go hard all the time, especially when you’re playing a pretty good team, and Benet took advantage of our mistakes. It was a good experience for our guys.”

The Bulldogs (4-2) bounced back on Dec. 3, routing visiting IC College Prep 65-42 in a Metro Suburban Blue opener. Stefan Cicic led the way with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Alijosius had 16 points, Gonzalez 10 and Rex Dockendorf eight.

“From the first half into the second against Benet, we made some progress,” he said. “That carried over into [the IC game]. We were locked in on both ends of the ball for the duration of the game.”

After a non-conference home contest versus Ridgewood on Dec. 6 (after the Landmark’s print deadline), the Bulldogs will host Chicago Christian on Dec. 9, then face St. Ignatius in the Team Rose Shootout at Mount Carmel on Dec. 10.