By Marty Farmer
The Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball team couldn't have scripted a better start.
RBHS swept Lyons Township and Bishop McNamara over the weekend, extending the Bulldogs' unbeaten record to 6-0 this season. Even more encouraging than the number of wins is how the team is compiling them.
The Bulldogs (6-0, 1-0 Metro Suburban) have used balance and teamwork on both ends of the floor to notch five of their six wins by 20 points or more. The team has already claimed its own Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Classic title with notable victories over Kenwood and Oak Park and River Forest, respectively, in the final and semifinals.
"We are obviously very encouraged by our strong start, but we need to keep working hard every day to continue to get better," RBHS coach Mike Reingruber said. "Our defense and rebounding were two of my concerns coming into the season. Both of those areas have been strengths for us thru six games.
"Offensively, it helps when you have numerous players that can lead you in scoring. Through six games, we have had four different leading scorers."
RBHS cruised past visiting LTHS 72-52 on Dec. 1. Ryan Cermak made three 3-pointers as the Bulldogs established a 17-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. RBHS kept applying pressure on the Lions by outscoring them 22-11 in the second quarter and 22-14 in the third to build a 61-36 advantage. The area rivals essentially traded baskets the rest of the way.
Andrew Veon led RBHS with 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Patrick Hanley scored 17 highlighted by five 3-pointers. Charles Terry contributed nine points and eight rebounds. Along with Cermak, Terry provided productive minutes to spell senior point guard Zach Vaia, who was on the bench in early foul trouble.
Defensively, RBHS got the job done as well.
"Against LT, we knew they were a very talented shooting team," Reingruber said. "I felt we did a great job limiting their open looks from the perimeter."
The Lions (3-2, 0-1 West Suburban Silver) struggled offensively, making just 15 of 51 shots from the field (29.4 percent) against the Bulldogs.
Nolan Niego (15 points) and Michael Niedermeyer (11 points) paced LTHS. Senior guard Tyrese Shines, one of the best players in the West Suburban Conference's Silver Division, had six points but on 3-for-11 shooting to go with five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
"RB played exceptionally well," LTHS coach Tom Sloan said. "They have very balanced scoring and good size across the board. We played well in spurts, but not consistently throughout the game. We shot poorly from the field, which is by far the worst shooting night for the Lions so far. Credit to RB for playing well on offense and defense."
In their other game over the weekend, the Bulldogs beat Bishop McNamara 77-45
Vaia, Reggie Loury and Veon all scored in double figures against Bishop Mac. Vaia, the reigning Metro Suburban Conference MVP, finished with 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting including 5 of 9 from beyond the three-point arc. Loury (13 points, 6 rebounds) and Veon (12 points, 7 rebounds) produced similar numbers offensively. The Bulldogs turned in one of their better defensive efforts with 14 steals against the Mustangs.
LTHS lost to visiting York 60-56 in its conference opener on Nov. 30.
The Lions were tied with the Dukes at 16-16 after one quarter. York outscored the Lions 22-13 in the second, which proved to be the difference. Trailing by 38-29 at halftime, LTHS cut the deficit to 48-44 entering the fourth quarter. However, York held on to secure a 60-56 victory.
Shines led the Lions with 24 points and six rebounds. He made 9 of 13 shots, including 4 of 6 on treys. Nolan Niego (11 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) and Grant Niego (10 points, 3 steals) also contributed.
Despite dropping their last two games, the Lions have started the season relatively well. LTHS defeated Maine South, Hinsdale South and Plainfield North to win its own Thanksgiving tournament.
"Maine South, Hinsdale South, and Plainfield North are all very good teams," Sloan said. "We faced good competition for three straight nights. The boys played very well on offense and defense. We shot around 50 percent for the week from the field. Great effort, energy and enthusiasm as a group.
"Our goal is to get better every day in practice, as individual players and as a team. The group works very hard. It's a very unselfish, fun group to work with."
RBHS hits the road this week with games at Chicago Christian on Friday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. and against Farragut at Mount Carmel in the Team Rose Classic on Saturday Dec. 8 at 12:30 p.m.
LTHS hosts a pair of upcoming games against Downers Grove North on Friday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. and against Argo on Saturday, Dec. 8 at 5:30 p.m.