Bulldogs chomp out 4th straight conference title

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By CHRIS PUMMER

The Riverside-Brookfield boys' basketball team left no doubt over the weekend about which team rules the Suburban Prairie (East) Conference.

The Bulldogs clinched their fourth straight title by rolling to a 67-49 win Friday night over Westmont. The win leaves them with a 7-0 record and a two and a half game lead over second-place Fenton (13-9, 4-2).

RB (14-8) will take on Fenton in the last regular-season contest for both teams later this month, and Bulldogs coach Tom McCloskey would like to see his team finish off its second straight unbeaten SPC season.

"We'd like to go undefeated and we know that will be tough," McCloskey said. "Our first goal each and every year is to win conference."

RB got off to a fast start with Mike Halusek connecting on three 3-point baskets in the first half. The senior guard, coming off a 34-point effort against Lyons Township last weekend, hit one more from beyond the arc in the second half and finished with 16 points and seven rebounds.

The Bulldogs kept Westmont (14-11, 4-3) from threatening in the second half as Matt Sandrik scored 14 of his team-high 17 points after the intermission. Sandrik also pulled down 14 rebounds in his first start of the season.

Freshman Chris Parrish added 11 points and eight boards as RB won its 16th straight conference game.

The Bulldogs haven't lost to a SPC opponent in conference play since a loss to Fenton to close the 2002-03 season, and are now 40-3 in SPC games under McCloskey.

RB didn't fare as well outside of conference Saturday against visiting Downers Grove South, falling 86-52.

The Bulldogs were within 20-19 entering the second quarter, but the Mustangs (20-3) put together 25 points over the next eight minutes to take an 11-point lead at the break.

Despite a Halusek 3-pointer to open the second half, Downers South went on a 14-0 run, and the Bulldogs wouldn't threaten again. Halusek and Alex Devaris led RB with 15 points apiece.

"We hung with them for a while," said McCloseky, who was not disappointed in the effort, just the result. "They are one of the top teams in the state and we look for them to go back downstate."

Although the Bulldogs are only 7-8 outside of the SPC this season, McCloseky points out that that record has more to do with the team's tough non-conference schedule.

"We have a stretch where we'll have played Lyons Township, Downers South and Brother Rice," McCloskey said. "All three were together in the rankings a couple weeks ago. I think it's going to make us a better overall team and prepare us for the State tournament. We know in our sectional every game is going to be tough."

The Bulldogs found out last week that they'll play in the Lyons Township regional and take on sixth-seeded Morton (15-8) in their first postseason game. RB, which enters as the ninth seed, will take on the winner between the third-seeded Lions (18-4) and 11th-seeded Nazareth Academy (10-13). The Bulldogs have already lost to Lyons and Morton this season.

RB's next game is 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln-Way East.

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