By Marty Farmer
With an 82-54 victory over visiting Ridgewood last week, the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball team set a school record for most wins in a regular season with 26. Fittingly, all five starters reached double figures in scoring for the balanced Bulldogs, who have won 14 games in a row.
Additionally, RBHS won the Metro Suburban Conference championship (its 17th league title in the past 18 seasons) and its own Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Classic during a superb regular season.
The most inportant victory of the season to date, however, occured in the Class 4A playoffs on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The Bulldogs beat regional host Morton 59-52 in a semifinal matchup.
Four RBHS starters reached double figures in scoring against the Mustangs. Charles Terry led the way with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds, while point guard Zach Vaia contributed 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Andrew Veon (13 points, 9 rebounds) and Reggie Loury (12 points, 6 rebounds) also led the victors. Vaia and Loury made several timely free throws down the stretch to secure the victory for the Bulldogs.
RBHS (27-4) advances to take on Lincoln Park in the championship game of the Morton Regional. Tip-off is Friday, March 1 at 7 p.m. at Morton East in Cicero.
Several of the senior-laden Bulldogs' top players have been playing together since fourth grade. Reigning conference MVP Vaia is averaging 15 points and six assists, while Veon puts up 13.5 points and nine rebounds per game. Patrick Hanley (13.5 points, 93 made 3-pointers on 43 percent shooting), Loury (8.5 ppg) and Terry (8.4 ppg, 6 rpg, 3 apg) complete the starting lineup. Top reserves Ryan Cermak and Sam Grivetti are also skilled seniors.
"We made history at RB for most wins in a regular season which is something I'll always remember," Loury said. "We have great ball movement on offense and play strong half-court defense."
The Bulldogs are also 4-0 against teams in the Proviso West Sectional of the Class 4A state playoffs, which begin this week. However, the victories against teams Oak Park-River Forest, Kenwood, Fenwick and Morton won't mean much now entering arguably the toughest sectional in the state.
"I'm very pleased with our regular season and how the team performed throughout the year," RBHS coach Mike Reingruber said. "However, you can throw the records out now in the state tournament. Every team is 0-0; it's survive and advance."
The slate is not only clean but daunting for RBHS in a sectional that includes Curie, Whitney Young, York and Lincoln Park (seeded one through four) followed by RBHS as the No. 5 seed. OPRF, Proviso East, Kenwood and Fenwick cap off the impressive list of top 10 seeds.
While Curie and Whitney Young are top contenders to win the sectional and possibly a state title, any of the aforementioned squads could conceivably go on an extended postseason run.
The battle-tested Bulldogs welcome any and all comers.
"I love competition and I'm glad we get to go against the best," Terry said. "Each game is going to be a dogfight. Our goals are to win regional and sectional championships."