By Marty Farmer
The Riverside-Brookfield High School boys basketball team rolled into Tuesday's Class 4A Proviso West Sectional semifinals against Curie on a 15-game winning streak. That momentum was quickly halted by the Condors, who led the Bulldogs by seven points after one quarter and 38-20 at halftime en route to a 62-53 victory.
In the early going, RBHS led 11-10 before Curie went on an 8-0 run to close the first quarter.
The Condors established a sizeable lead courtesy of a 15-2 run late in the second quarter. During that pivotal spurt by Curie, RBHS senior Andrew Veon caught an elbow to his head and sat out the final four minutes of the first half which proved costly for the Bulldogs.
Although RBHS played better in the second half (outscoring Curie 33-24), the 18-point deficit proved too much to overcome.
"Curie is really, really good," RBHS coach Mike Reingruber said. "There is a reason why they are the No. 1 team in the state and one of the top teams in the country. They are constantly in attack mode on both sides of the floor."
Patrick Hanley led the Bulldogs in scoring with 17 points on 7-for-12 shooting and Charles Terry added 12 points and 10 rebounds. Andrew Veon (9 points, 8 rebounds) and Reggie Loury (9 points) and Zach Vaia (7 points) also contributed.
"The strength of our team all season has been our versatility," Veon said. "We have multiple weapons on the floor offensively and we shoot the three very well. We also play hard defensively."
RBHS drew within nine points on a couple of occasions in the second half, but the Condors responded both times with scoring flurries of their own to hold off the Bulldogs.
"I am very proud of how our guys battled Curie all night long," Reingruber said. "Take away their one four-minute run to close out the first half and we were right there. We handled their pressure well. We needed to do a better job on the defensive glass and shoot it better if we wanted to win the game."
Ramean Hinton finished with 21 points and Justin Harmon recorded a double-double of 14 points and 12 boards for Curie. The Condors (32-1) advance to Friday's March 8 sectional final against Whitney Young at 7 p.m. in Hillside.
Bulldogs win regional championship
In the Morton Regional final on March 2, RBHS trailed Lincoln Park by 12 points at halftime but rallied for a 69-60 win.
The Bulldogs struggled in the first half, making just 1 of 15 three-pointers while also dealing with foul trouble. Vaia sparked the second-half comeback.
"In the second half, we spread the floor and Zach made a bunch of tough shots or found open guys for easy shots," Reingruber said. "They had a hard time containing Zach, so we kept going with it. We knew our threes would eventually fall and Patrick and Reggie hit some huge shots late in the game. Our guys were also very locked in defensively in the second half."
Vaia scored 25 points, with Terry (12 points), Hanley (10 points) and Veon (10 points) providing support. Reingruber also praised junior Daniel Sessler, who provided great defense and energy off the bench.
"We didn't get off to a great start, but we knew we had to stick together," Vaia said about the Lincoln Park game. "We fought back, played for each other, and got the win."
In the regional semifinal, RBHS outlasted regional host Morton 59-52 in a seesaw game.
The Bulldogs scored 23 points in the second quarter to set the tone before the Mustangs responded with a strong third quarter to take the lead. Vaia (15 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists) and Loury (12 points, 6 rebounds) made clutch free throws in the fourth quarter for the victors. Terry led the team with a double-double of 16 points and 10 boards, while Veon just missed one with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Morton star Lateak Murphy, who scored 28 points against RBHS in a game on Nov. 28, was held to 11.
"The Morton win was a great way to start off the tournament for us," Vaia said. "We knew it was going to be tough playing in their place, but we pulled through in the end."
In terms of the season overall, RBHS turned in one of the best year's in program history. RBHS (28-5) recorded the most victories in a single regular-season with 26, won its 17th conference championship in 18 years, and claimed the Morton Regional and VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Classic championships. The team also made 304 three-pointers (tied for 8th in state history). The Bulldogs defeated tough opponents, including Morton, Oak Park and River Forest, Kenwood, Fenwick, Lyons Township, Brother Rice, Marshall and Lincoln Park.
Seven seniors garnered most of the playing time and thrived in a system featuring balanced scoring, defense and coaching from Reingruber and the coaching staff. Vaia, Terry, Loury, Hanley and Veon all averaged around double figures in scoring, while Ryan Cermak and Sam Grivetti anchored a solid bench.
"I couldn't be prouder of our guys," Reingruber said. "The season didn't end the way we wanted, but they battled until the very end. This senior class will be missed. It's a group of high character kids, who have worked extremely hard and given everything they have to our program. I'm honored to have had the opportunity to coach this group."
Coupled with the 2015 team, which also finished with 28 wins and advanced to a supersectional against Stevenson, the Bulldogs have produced a pair of remarkable seasons over the past four years. Additionally, the transition from former head coach Tom McCloskey to Reingruber has been both smooth and successful. RBHS is also firmly entrenched as a hotbed for summer high school hoops with assorted premier leagues, camps and shootouts. run by Reingruber and his coaching staff.