LTHS’ Graham Smith (15) passes the ball to Jackson Niego (5) during the second half of the Lions’ victory over Riverside-Brookfield High School on Jan. 28. | Ian McLeod

For a Lyons Township High School boys basketball lineup already blessed with talented size, 6-foot-6 senior Carter Reid continues to play a bigger role.

His growing contributions helped the Lions continue their success with a 61-49 victory over Riverside-Brookfield on Jan. 28. The game completed the Lions’ Mental Health Awareness Pack the Place doubleheader following the girls team’s victory over Lincoln-Way West.

Reid started up front with 6-6 senior Nik Polonowski and 6-5 senior Graham Smith. They combined for 35 points and helped the Lions (19-3) lead 43-28 in rebounds.

“We all passed it pretty well tonight,” Reid said. “I definitely think we boxed out better in the second half, but we wouldn’t have gotten the opportunities we did inside if the passing wasn’t where it was. 

Smith (14 points, 7 rebounds), Jackson Niego (12 points, 7 rebounds), Polonowski (11 points, 9 rebounds), Reid (10 points, 6 rebounds), Brady Chambers (8 points, 5 rebounds), Caleb Greer (4 points) and Connor Carroll (5 deflections) all contributed.

Arius Alijosius (14 points), Stefan Cicic (14 points, 8 rebounds), Will Gonzalez (13 points, 6 rebounds) and Steven Brown (5 points, 5 assists) led the Bulldogs (19-5).

LTHS players certainly remembered last year’s 69-59 regular-season loss at RBHS.

“I think we had that chip on our shoulder from last year. That was a really tough loss at their place,” Polonowski said. “This one definitely felt good.”

The teams were close throughout the first three quarters after RBHS zipped to an 8-0 lead after back-to-back threes by Marques Turner and Gonzalez. LTHS led 27-26 at halftime and 45-41 after three quarters.

The Lions gained breathing room by starting the fourth quarter with an 8-2 run to lead 53-43 with 5:13 left. RBHS never got closer than eight.

The Lions defended the 6-11 Cicic, another emerging area standout, by fronting him with another big man or guard.

[Cicic] is going to get what he gets,” Smith said. “Some of the boards you can’t do much about it, but we made it the game plan to limit it as much as possible.”

Offensively, the Lions relentlessly attacked the basket, mostly the lightning-quick Niego, or exploited their overall size advantage by sharing the ball.

“We were kind of making sure we were finding the mismatch and getting it inside and to the person who could score every time,” Smith said. 

The Bulldogs couldn’t supplement their inside efforts, going 5 for 31 from 3-point range with the two early threes. Alijosius added a late one after a conventional 3-point play in their 8-point fourth quarter. 

“We had a real good first half overall. The third quarter, I really thought that they really attacked us inside,” RBHS coach Mike Reingruber said. “They did a nice job of cleaning the offensive glass and getting some stick backs. I thought it really came down to where they made some toughness plays and we didn’t throughout the second half.”

Reid had been emerging but recently was sidetracked by an ankle injury. Another rising star is 6-6 junior baseball standout Chambers, who scored twice during the early fourth-quarter run.

The Bulldogs were coming off two victories to remain undefeated in the Metro Suburban Conference Blue – 78-56 over Chicago Christian on Jan. 27 and a 66-48 win on Jan. 24 over second-place IC Catholic Prep to open a two-game lead.

Cicic scored 25 points against Chicago Christian on 12-for-13 shooting and Alijosius had 21 points with five threes and Gonzalez added 14 points. 

Cicic (18 points), Gonzalez (15), Alijosius (13) and Brown (11) reached double-figures against IC Catholic Prep.