Two minutes and 45 seconds into the IHSA Class 4A regional championship game on Feb. 24, Arius Alijosius hit a three pointer to put Riverside-Brookfield High School on the scoreboard after Hinsdale Central scored the first four points.
But that single 3-pointer would be the only shot Alijosius, who this season made a school record 106 treys during the 2022-23 season, made all night as the Bulldogs struggled to find offensive rhythm against Hinsdale Central’s sticky man-to-man defense.
The Bulldogs’ season came to an end in a 52-39 defeat at the hands of the Red Devils, who captured the Lane Tech regional title.
Alijosius, a senior guard who will play basketball next year for Winona State, was hounded all game by Hinsdale Central’s quick point guard Evan Phillips. With Phillips always in his face, Alijosius had few good looks at the basket and made only one of 14 shots.
“He’s been great all year long for us; sometimes that happens,” said RBHS coach Mike Reingruber. “Give Hinsdale’s defense credit.”
The seventh seeded Bulldogs (26-6), who had the misfortune of being placed in the toughest Class 4A sectional in the state, struggled to find any offensive continuity in the first half.
“Hinsdale is a really good team and I thought early on in the game our offense was a little stale, our movement wasn’t great,” Reingruber said.
The Bulldogs also played tough defense, which kept them in the game, but they could only manage 15 points in the first half and trailed 22-15 at the break.
Will Gonzalez led the Bulldogs with a game high 18 points and fellow junior Stefan Cicic added 12 points, 10 in the second half, and pulled down 11 rebounds.
“Will really had a great second half of the season and [I] look forward to big things from both guys next year.”
Gonzalez scored on an explosive drive to the basket and athletic finish to tie the score at 7-7 midway through the first quarter, but that was the only tie of the game after the tip and the Bulldogs never led.
“I tried to be very aggressive, because I knew none of them could stay in front of me,” Gonzalez said of his attempt to jump start the Bulldogs offense.
The Bulldogs had a hard time getting the ball to the 6-11 Cicic in the first half.
“We had five turnovers trying to get him the ball,” Reingruber said. “In the second half we were executing those passes. If you get him the ball in space, he’s usually going to make a good play.”
The Bulldogs were able to get the ball inside to Cicic in the second half and kept the game close until the final minute. They didn’t trail by double digits until 95 seconds were left in the game.
“It seemed like any time we cut it to three or four, they came down and made a tough play or a play went against us,” Reingruber said.
Hinsdale Central (30-3), which is seeded second in the sectional and won its 22nd consecutive game, was led by Ben Oosterbaan’s 17 points. Oosterbaan, a 6-6 senior who has signed to play baseball at Michigan, broke the Hinsdale Central single season scoring record during the game, surpassing the mark set by Bradley University coach Brian Wardle. Oosterbaan had to work for all his points, hounded for much of the game by Marques Turner.
The Bulldogs advanced to the regional final with 60-58 overtime win over host Lane Tech in the regional semifinal on Feb. 22. Cicic led the Bulldogs with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Gonzalez scored 19 points and Alijosius added 13.
The 26 wins this season were the second most ever for a RBHS boys basketball team, trailing only the 28 games won by the 2024-15 sectional championship team and the 2018-19 team.
“To put together 26 wins against a very competitive schedule, and the thing I loved about this group was the amount of close games we won — multiple overtime games, multiple one-point games, multiple just really close games — and we showed a lot of toughness and grit and, you know, it’s a sign of a good team,” Reingruber said.