By Marty Farmer
The Riverside-Brookfield High School girls basketball team typically wins games with eight or nine players in the scorebook and a collective effort defensively. The Bulldogs' balance, coupled with an aggressive style of play, has fit their up-tempo system very well.
Consequently, RBHS is 17-9 overall and in first place with a 9-1 record in the Metro Suburban Conference.
"The season has gone about as well as we could have hoped," RBHS sophomore guard Brenna Loftus said. "We've had a lot of big wins that hopefully will carry us through to the end of the season. We started the season well and are working hard to end it the same way."
Teammate Mary Maloney, a senior guard, also offered her assessment of the season to date.
"The season has gone very well," she said. "We've had a couple tough losses but we've also had a lot of very rewarding wins. I believe the team's expectations for the rest of the season include getting to 20 wins, which is always a program goal, and finishing out the season with a conference championship."
Loftus and junior Sarah Jnobaptiste have led RBHS (particularly on offense) this winter. The tandem played well in recent wins over Bishop McNamara and St. Francis.
"The way our team works is that everybody has a role," RBHS assistant coach Mark Ruge said. "Their role is to score."
In a 61-56 victory against Bishop Mac, Jnobaptiste recorded a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds and went 6-for-12 on 3-pointers, while Loftus finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and two steals.
Senior forward Leah Rettke also turned in a solid effort with 10 points and 11 boards. Sophomore guard Angelina Ocampo added five points and four rebounds.
"We're lucky that Brenna is a sophomore and we still have Sarah for another year," Ruge said. "Leah is an unsung hero and a gamer. Mary Maloney played a great game against Bishop Mac with five assists and no turnovers."
A turning point this season for the Bulldogs actually occurred in their first meeting against Bishop Mac, a 69-64 victory over the Fightin' Irish on Dec. 11 in Kankakee.
"That was a huge game when we played at Bishop Mac," Ruge said. "Bishop Mac is a really good team that plays against some of the best teams around.
"We decided that game not to pass the ball 6-7 times but really attack the basket. That's where the best percentage shots are available. We talk about being aggressive and not just settling for three-pointers. If an opponent gets back on defense, our secondary options are to look for our scorers Brenna and Sarah."
Despite a relatively undersized roster, RBHS has more than held its own on the boards. Reserve Georgiana Gomorczak pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds (9 offensive) against Bishop Mac.
"We've been effective rebounding because our 'bigs' are using good basketball IQ," Ruge said. "If a shot goes up on the strong side, the ball will likely come off on the weak side. Our players try to position themselves well to get rebounds."
Against St. Francis, Loftus scored a team-high 28 points to go with four rebounds and three steals as the Bulldogs cruised to a 70-45 win. Jnobaptiste contributed 18 points, four rebounds and two steals. Maloney chipped in eight points, five assists and four rebounds.
"My role on the team is being a distributor and a leader on the floor," Maloney said. "I really enjoy putting my teammates in positions to score and watching them go to work with the ball."
Six other players accounted for the remaining points against the Spartans. The Bulldogs scored 16 points apiece in two categories: second-chance points and points off turnovers.
Pressure defense and rebounding have created fast break opportunities all season for RBHS.
"Our team is really strong when it comes to generating offense through our defense," Loftus said. "We work hard on the defensive end and look to use that as a way to jump-start our offense. We push the ball up the floor and make sure to move it well between everybody."
RBHS celebrates Senior Night against visiting Leyden on Thursday, Jan. 31. Tip-off is 7 p.m.