By Marty Farmer
If the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls basketball team is lacking intensity in practice, head coach Dallas Till calls for the shell drill.
It's a 4-on-4, half-court drill that naturally elicits the players' passion and principles for fundamental basketball.
"When we run shell, there are bumps, bruises and tempers flare. The girls really get after it," RBHS assistant coach Mark Ruge said. "We run it before games, too. It emphasizes important parts of the game we talk about like communicating, setting a pick, switching and seeing your man and the ball defensively."
That competitiveness coupled with an up-tempo style of play has translated to entertaining, winning basketball. RBHS went 25-7 last season.
The Bulldogs have won three games in a row and are 4-2 overall with a 2-0 mark in Metro Suburban Conference play this season. After splitting four games at the Maine East tourney to open the season, RBHS defeated Rosary 59-27 on Nov. 27 in Chicago and visiting St. Edward by a score of 52-25 on Nov. 29.
"We're really happy with the way our players are buying in to our attitude of attacking the basket," Ruge said. "We walked out after playing St. Edward with our chest held high because we came to play.
Sophomore guard Brenna Loftus is flourishing in the Bulldogs' system. She's a two-way player who attacks the basket in transition or the half court. A returning all-conference player, Loftus scored 22 points against St. Edward and 20 points against Rosary.
Junior Sarah Jnobaptiste and sophomore Angelina Ocampo have also played well for the Bulldogs. Jnobaptise had 15 points and seven rebounds against St. Edward, while Ocampo tallied an efficient 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field and six boards against Rosary.
Leah Rettke, Natalie Leon and Mary Maloney have made significant contributions as well.
"Everybody is back from last season," Ruge said. "We are getting out in transition for baskets and then running our secondary break as needed. On defense, the girls are talking pretty well but we can always communicate and rebound the ball better."
On Thursday, Dec. 6 against Aurora Christian (7 p.m. tip-off) at home, the Bulldogs begin a stretch of seven games in 10 days, including several at the Oak Lawn Invite.
"We're going to take it day by day," Ruge said. "We are in good shape mentally and physically. One of the reasons we set [the schedule] up this way is because we think we can hang against good teams."