By Marty Farmer
Times are good around the Riverside-Brookfield High School basketball team. Following an ideal game plan for virtually any team, the Bulldogs are playing their best basketball of the season with the state playoffs on the horizon.
RBHS (25-4, 11-1 Metro Suburban Conference) won the conference championship with a gritty 51-47 victory against top league foe Aurora Christian on Friday, Feb. 15.
The Bulldogs have won 12 games in a row and tied the school-record for most wins in a regular season with 25. They can break the regular-season record with a victory at Ridgewood this week.
The 2015 RBHS team, the only group to reach a supersectional in program history, claims the single-season record for most games won with 28. The Bulldogs, who went 28-4 that season, lost to Stevenson and star guard Jalen Brunson 62-45 at the Class 4A Chicago State Sectional that year.
"Our goal from the beginning of the year was to be playing our best basketball leading into the state tournament. I think we are doing that," RBHS coach Mike Reingruber said. "The best part of this team is our balance and the fact we are getting great contributions from everyone. Each and every day it seems to be multiple players stepping up and making key plays."
The Bulldogs have won a remarkable 17 conference championships over the past 18 seasons.
Other than a mediocre patch through mid-December when the Bulldogs split six games, the team has been virtually unbeatable.
RBHS defeated De La Salle and Aurora Christian over the weekend. The Bulldogs beat De La Salle 82-67 at the President's Day Shootout at Evergreen Park High School on Sunday, Feb. 17. The Bulldogs made 21 of 28 field goals and had 30 points off the bench. Patrick Hanley (team-high 17 points) and Zach Vaia shot 10-for-23, collectively behind the 3-point arc, while Sam Grivetti (16 points, 5 rebounds) and Ryan Cermak (14 points) also contributed for the victors.
"Sam and Ryan provide us with so much energy and hustle," Reingruber said. "They both took huge charges defensively against Aurora Christian. They both would be starters at most high schools, but have bought into their roles coming off the bench for us. They are a huge part of our success."
RBHS celebrated Senior Night with the aforementioned win against Aurora Christian. Andrew Veon recorded a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Vaia turned in a terrific all-court effort with 13 points, four assists and five steals. Hanley chipped in 11 points and six boards. Reggie Loury, Charles Terry, Cermak and Grivetti led a spirited defensive performance.
"Our seniors have been playing together since fourth grade," Reingruber said. "They all got valuable experience in the state tournament last year and experienced the emotional lockerroom after we lost a hard fought game to Curie in the regional championship.
"Ever since that day, they have worked their tails off and are focused on each opponent. They know the state tournament is all about survive and advance. I'm not worried about their focus."