Despite the wintry weather that blew into town Friday night, the Suburban Prairie Conference race was heating up inside the Riverside-Brookfield gym, though Fenton should be forgiven if it feels like it was left out in the cold.
That's because the Bulldogs seized control of the conference with a 59-49 win that moved their conference record 5-0 and set the Bison two games back in the standings at 3-2. RB now has a two game lead in the SPC with three more conference games on the schedule.
"This was a game we had to have because they were only a game behind us," Bulldogs coach Larry Rocco said. "We still have two games on the road, so the conference is still up for grabs, but as they say, this definitely puts us in control of our own destiny."
The Bulldogs (17-2) held a slim 20-19 advantage over the Bison to start the second half, and Fenton looked for moment to be ready for a run after connecting on a 3-point basket to begin the third quarter to put R-B down by two.
"Fenton is a good team and they came out with a good game plan," Rocco said. "They wanted to keep us from doing the things we want to do and it worked in the first half. We also had to deal with foul trouble."
But foul trouble didn't plague the Bulldogs much in the second half because the team got a lot of mileage out of its bench. Sarah Strait, on the floor in place of starting center Erin Pfieffer, finished with eight points, including a pair of fourth-quarter buckets that Rocco described as "huge." Together with the solid minutes RB received from Laura Wojcik and Heather Comrie, the Bulldogs managed to pull away even without big minutes from their starters.
Not that the starters didn't pull their fair share. Meghan Huchens finished with 21 points, Pfieffer had eight points and eight rebounds and Katelyn McCloskey pulled down 11 boards while scoring four points and dishing out three assists. Maggie McCloskey had four points and eight assists while Lauren O'Brien had two points with six assists.
"That's the way we play," Rocco said. "Our whole goal is to play as a team. We don't have individuals. Everyone helps lift each other."
RB plays a conference game on the road against Ridgewood on Wednesday and then wraps up the Sweet 16 tournament at Lake Zurich this weekend.
The Bulldogs will take on Buffalo Grove and Stevenson on Saturday. RB is 2-1 for the tourney after wins against Lyons Township and Mother Guerin, plus a loss to Fenwick.
"This tournament is tough and this weekend will be a big test," Rocco said. "Last year we were 0-5 in the tournament, so we feel good about the progress we've made. There's a lot of good teams and we think playing in this tournament right before the State tournament will help get us ready for that."