By CHRIS PUMMER
The stats didn't count. Neither did wins and losses.
What did count at the 11th Annual Minuteman Classic for the Riverside-Brookfield boys' and girls' basketball teams was proving they'd be able to hang with the elite of the Chicagoland basketball scene.
Both teams proved successful by that score over the weekend at York High School.
The RB girls' team rolled through its first three games to reach the semifinals. The Bulldogs were felled by Fenwick, 51-32, and lost to Proviso West, 49-37 in the third-place game. But coach Larry Rocco still found what he was looking for from his squad.
"We played our games hard and did a nice job," Rocco said. "This is a great group of kids that go out, work hard and do what you want them to do. And they were out there competing against some of the best teams in the state. To finish fourth in a tournament like this where every team is good, that says a lot about these kids."
Forward Katelyn McCloskey and center Sarah Strait provided the scoring and rebounding as expected. Kristen Zeleny also lived up to her billing as a stellar defender at the guard position. Seniors Colleen Hartman and Lauren Orgler are also back in their familiar roles as key subs off the bench.
But more important was the work RB's younger players did to prove their readiness to enter the lineup.
Rocco said that sophomore Rachel Buccieri is coming in to her own at point guard, proving she can handle the ball and move the Bulldogs up and down the floor. Regan Riley, a sophomore forward, also flashed her athleticism at the tournament.
The Bulldogs proved their tenacity in the semifinal loss to highly touted Fenwick. Despite falling behind 16-2 in the opening minute of the game, RB climbed to within 26-20 three minutes before the half.
Fenwick went on to finish second in the tournament after a championship game loss to Bollingbrook, and Rocco believes the Friars to be a lock for a top-five ranking once the basketball season begins. He also believes a strong showing against an elite opponent will be a big confidence booster for the team.
"It was a nice tournament for us," Rocco said. "If this is a reflection of how the winter high school season will be, we're looking forward to it."
The RB boys team didn't place at the Minuteman with its 2-3 record. The Bulldogs defeated Timothy Christian and Brother Rice, while falling to St. Patrick, Morton and Libertyville.
Coach Tom McCloskey pointed less to his team's record and more to the strides his group made against the top opponents it faced over the weekend.
"It's a very competitive shootout," he said. "We had our ups and downs. I think all this is really going to help us during the regular season."
McCloskey said junior guard Chris Parish has emerged as one of the top players in the Chicago area, while seniors Jon Baldermann and Jake Nash are providing the presence in the paint that will be critical for the Bulldogs' success this winter.
"I think we're young and as a group maybe we're bothered by pressure situations a little bit," McCloskey said. "That will be something we need to work on at some point, but this difficult schedule will help us with that."