Riverside Brookfield defeated Westmont 57-49 Friday to clinch at least a share of their fifth straight Suburban Prairie (East) Conference championship.
The Bulldogs (14-7, 8-0) can clinch the title outright with a win against Lemont Friday. In the meantime, RB coach Tom McCloskey needs to keep his team focused to finish the season strong.
"We struggled more than I would have liked against Westmont," he said. "At this point in the season we made some mistakes that we should not be making. We are not taking care of the ball and giving up too many second shots. Our rebounding comes and goes and that is definitely something we need to focus on."
After a lackluster first half against Westmont, the Bulldogs began to turn things around courtesy of their press in the second half. The game still remained close with the Bulldogs clinging to a four-point lead with just four minutes to go. Once again, however, the Bulldogs looked to their full-court press and it led to some key transition baskets, providing some much needed breathing room and the win. Chris Parrish had a standout game for the Bulldogs with 23 points and grabbing six rebounds.
"I thought we had some good offensive possessions in the fourth quarter that really helped us shut the door on them (Westmont)," McCloskey said. "It was close, but we executed our press well and made our free throws when we needed to get the win."
In addition to Lemont, McCloskey must also prepare his squad for Lincoln-Way East, Brother Rice and Fenton to round out the regular season. Currently, RB is tied with Fenton for first, so McCloskey is making sure his squad does not take any of the four remaining games lightly.
"Starting with Lemont, we really have to go in there and take care of business," he said. "Three of our last four games are road games just like Westmont, so we have to make sure we are focused. Lemont is changing conferences next year, so we want to make sure to play very hard. To be honest, I would like to keep Lemont on our schedule because we have such a good rivalry."
After the regular season ends, RB then faces a tough first round regional challenge against Morton on March 1. The Bulldogs have recently tasted defeat from Morton on Feb. 8, falling 53-40. In that game, however, the Bulldogs shot a dismal 15 of 49 from the field, a statistic McCloskey knows they must improve upon if they want to keep their postseason alive.
"Not only did we really struggle offensively, once Morton got the lead they spread the floor and went into a four corner set up to control the clock. Obviously, we do not want that to happen again. The key for us is to definitely take one game at a time?"we cannot get ahead of ourselves and look too far into the future. I think if we do that we have a better chance of being successful."
The Bulldogs travel to Lemont on Friday with tip-off at 7 p.m.