As a transfer with minimal off-season action, junior Stefan Cicic has quickly adjusted to his new role with the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball team.
Now it’s opponents needing adjustments to stop the 6-foot-11 center.
Cicic continued making strides — along with the Bulldogs — at York’s Jack Tosh Holiday Classic. Cicic was named to the 20-player all-tournament team and the Bulldogs (11-4) went 3-1 to achieve a top-six finish out of 32 teams.
“I’m really honored to be all-tournament,” Cicic said. “During the middle of the season, I started feeling more comfortable, not only with my playing style but also with my teammates, feeding me the ball and also more relaxed on the court.”
RBHS particularly showed its mettle on Dec. 29 by beating Palatine 60-58 after a rough 70-45 quarterfinal loss to fourth-place St. Ignatius (13-3) a day earlier. The Bulldogs earlier beat Schaumburg 59-38 on Dec. 26 and Lake Forest 54-49 on Dec. 27.
With losses to Curie, Benet and two to St. Ignatius, RBHS only has lost to top-10 ranked teams this season.
“I think we’ve got a good feeling for where our team is, where we need to be better,” RBHS coach Mike Reingruber said. “I think we’re going to continue to get better and better. The sky’s the limit for these guys.”
Cicic had 22 points, six rebounds and four assists against Palatine (10-4) in becoming another offensive threat with returning starters Arius Alijosius and Will Gonzalez.
Alijosius collected 64 points with three double-digit games and 12 three pointers, seven in a 29-point effort against Schaumburg. He was a tournament-best 18-for-18 on free throws.
Cicic (61 points) had double-doubles against St. Ignatius (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Lake Forest (13 points, 11 rebounds).
Besides transferring from Niles-Notre Dame, Cicic being injured during summer leagues limited his first chances to play with his new teammates.
“That’s really an opportunity to start jelling as a unit and he wasn’t able to be a part of that,” Reingruber said. “I only expected him to get better as the year went on and I expect him to continue to get better come playoff time.”
Alijosius (16 points, 3 threes), Gonzalez (7 points, 7 rebounds) and Hunter Ferguson (6 points), who each had three pointers, and Marques Turner (4 points, 4 rebounds) also contributed against Palatine.
The Bulldogs’ 8-0 run opened a 53-45 lead in the fourth quarter. The Pirates closed to 57-56 but Alijosius hit two free throws with 29.7 seconds. After Gonzalez’s free throw for a 2-point lead with 1.1 seconds, the Pirates full-court inbounds play never materialized.
The Bulldogs successfully recovered from losing to St. Ignatius, which outscored RBHS 21-6 in the second quarter for a 36-17 halftime lead. The Bulldogs also lost to the Wolfpack 69-63 on Dec. 10.
“It was definitely good to bounce back against a good team like Palatine,” Reingruber said. “Stef really kind of dominated that game, scoring and with all of the attention he drew, he had a lot of nice passes for assists as well.”
This story has been changed to correct the name of the school from which Stefan Cicic transferred.