By Marty Farmer
Riverside-Brookfield High School girls basketball coach Dallas Till already has a good sense of the Bulldogs' potential for next season. Nevertheless, the summer basketball season serves as another barometer to further measure the team's development.
The fact RBHS racked up plenty of victories en route to becoming champions of the Lisle Summer League is a bonus.
"Winning the Lisle Summer League was a nice way to finish off the summer," Till said. "The league consists of eight or nine teams, which all play each other over an 11-game schedule. Our only loss in pool play occurred against Aurora Christian, so we earned the second seed for the playoffs. In the championship game, we got some retribution by beating Aurora Christian."
Although Till was proud of the Bulldogs' tourney title, the summer hoops schedule is viewed differently from the four-month grind of the regular season.
"First of all, I just want the girls to have fun and get to know each other on the court during the summer," Till said. "Since we lost some seniors, summer obviously offers a great opportunity to see how our newcomers adjust from the sophomore level to varsity basketball. I can evaluate each player and also figure out what are going to be the best kinds of offense and defense we want to run for next season."
Although some minor roster questions remain, the projected starting lineup is coming into focus. Returning wing players Brenna Loftus and Sarah JnoBaptiste have two spots locked up on a team that won 20 games and the Metro Suburban Conference last season.
"We already know what Brenna and Sarah can do," Till said. "They have started multiple years on the varsity and contribute so much to our team."
Loftus was MVP of the Metro Suburban Conference, while JnoBaptiste garnered all-conference recognition last season.
Along with the Bulldogs' "Big Two," Cassandra Hines and Natalie Leon are other top returners. Those four upperclassmen should anchor a hopefully deep rotation of players.
"Cassandra was our sixth man and a major contributor last year," Till said. "She will step into the primary point guard role and become our floor general. Natalie was our seventh man last season. We're looking forward to seeing her step up her game as well."
Underclassmen Hannah Organ and Shannon Malloy are other players to watch. Bob Organ, Hannah's dad, is the head coach of the Morton High School football team.
"Hannah is a tremendous athlete," Till said. "She's not imposing but she plays big and is a good rebounder. Molly played well this summer and fits into our plans moving forward."
Grace Schoditsch, Tess Bruno and Daniella Ulloa also contributed for the Bulldogs this summer.
"The team's progress has been positive," JnoBaptiste said. "We will continue to work hard and give our best effort all the time. Each of us has our own individual talent, but we put it all together to make a great team. It's so much more fun winning when you're doing it with people you care about."
RBHS wins games with unselfish players who buy into Till and assistant coach Mark Ruge's team-centric message.
"I really couldn't ask for a better returning crew," Till said about his players.
In terms of losses, RBHS graduated notable contributors in Maloney, Leah Rettke, Georgiana Gomorczak and Maddie Meehan this year.
All-conference player Angelina Ocampo is also gone, transferring to Maine West, which defeated Mother McAuley 58-46 in the championship game of the Class 4A playoffs last season.
However, the Bulldogs' mix of veterans and newcomers should translate to more success next season.
"I'm extremely excited about what's in store for us next season," Loftus said. "I think we have a lot of potential to keep playing well. We have some promising years ahead of us."