By James Kay
About three summers ago, Mark Ruge was observing a youth basketball program's practice when one player started dominating the rest of the pack in a scrimmage. She was stopping on a dime, hitting jumpers over her defenders, and showed off a certain offensive versatility that coaches don't typically see from a middle-schooler.
"I remember thinking, 'This kid isn't doing anything wrong,'" said Ruge, assistant coach for the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls basketball team. "I told [head coach Dallas Till] that we had one coming, and she's only gotten better and better."
Two and a half years into her time with RBHS' varsity team, Brenna Loftus is on pace to score over 2,000 career points. She's averaging more than 30 points per game this season while attempting less than one 3-pointer a game and has led the Bulldogs to a 22-3 record.
Even with Loftus' insane scoring output, she is more concerned with how many wins her team has been able to tally this season.
"Wow, am I really only attempting one [3-pointer] a game?" Loftus said laughing after being told about her low volume of 3-point attempts. "I haven't really looked at the stats to be honest with you. [The team] isn't that concerned with those stats, since we just care about winning. But getting to the rim and driving and pulling up from midrange has really been the center of my game, so I guess that makes sense."
Before scoring her first points at the varsity level, Loftus practiced with the varsity in the team's summer league program heading into her freshman year. She didn't start right away, but slowly she worked her way into the starting lineup. Loftus credits the older players for helping her transition into a more physical style of basketball.
"Getting used [to playing on varsity] was a really fun process, actually," said Loftus. "In my freshman year, I was playing with a team of girls that were really helpful and supportive of me and helped me adjust to playing at that speed and pace. From an IQ standpoint, they made it easier for me."
Even with the team and the coaching staff supporting her at the beginning of her time on varsity, Loftus dealt with some bumps in the road at the start of her freshman season.
"When you are playing at the varsity level, you are going against strong kids," said Ruge. "She had a little bit of a tendency to fade away on her shot or fade away from contact her freshman year. Even with that, she had an amazing year. We told her going into last year that we want her to attack the basket and she adjusted."
Going into this season with more muscle and experience, Loftus is leading the charge by dismantling opponents on a nightly basis (she is averaging 11 free throw attempts per game).
Most girls' basketball programs average 40-50 points per game, which means opponents have to make an extra effort to contain Loftus or the game will be done by the start of the second half.
For example, during RBHS' Jan. 23 game against St. Francis on the road, Loftus poured in 42 points -- six less than her opponents scored all game.
"It's just remarkable," said Ruge. "Mathematically, teams can't keep up with us when she is rolling like that. A few weeks ago, I was watching tape and thought, 'Man, Brenna is struggling in this one,' and by the end I looked at the stats and she had scored 28 points. You just don't see that often."
While there is no question that she could play at the college level, Loftus still hasn't decided if she wants to pursue basketball when she moves onto college life. As of right now, she is just excited to be playing with this group who she has played with since she was in fourth grade.
"I've been thinking a lot about [playing with this year's team], especially since the season has started," said Loftus. "It's such an insane thought that next year I will be 18 years old and will have played with the same girls I played with when I was 12. That is so, so special to me and I couldn't ask for a better way for it all to end being alongside those girls."