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Boys Basketball: Riverside-Brookfield rolling in the early going

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Riverside-Brookfield guard Joe Gilhooley goes up for a layup amidst a crowd of Chicago Christian defenders during a Metro Suburban Gold game on Dec. 10. Photo by Jason Maholy

By Jason Maholy
Sports Editor

After entering the season with high expectations, a talented and experienced Riverside-Brookfield team has not disappointed.

The Bulldogs won eight of their first nine games and came into this week on a roll as winners of five straight. During that streak they have barely been challenged, averaging nearly 78 points per game and winning an average margin of a comical 34 points.

Among those wins were back-to-back 82-point performances in drubbings of Ridgewood (82-35) and Chicago Christian (82-20). Their most competitive game during that stretch was a 69-59 win over rival Lyons on Dec. 4.

“We’re an experienced group,” Bulldogs coach Mike Reingruber said after the win over Chicago Christian on Dec. 10. “I have six guys back that started games last year, so we’re very senior heavy and I think that experience helps.”

Wing JP Hanley is a third-year starter and fellow seniors Brady Vaia, Joe Gilhooley and Jaevon McCottry were all regular starters last season. Sophomore Will Gonzalez started a handful of games as a freshman during the 2019-20 season, in which R-B won a regional title for the second consecutive year.

The Bulldogs’ are aiming higher this season, and with that in mind Reingruber prepared his team by playing a challenging summer league schedule that featured some of the top teams in the Chicago area.

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Riverside-Brookfield point guard Brady Vaia drives to the basket during the Bulldogs’ 82-20 win over Chicago Christian on Dec. 10. Photo by Jason Maholy

It appears to be paying off so far, with the only blemish on their slate a 65-63 loss to Curie in R-B’s VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Tournament. The Condors entered this week ranked fourth in the state in Class 4A by MaxPreps.

In the win over Chicago Christian, junior guard Arius Alijosius came off the bench to lead all scorers with 21 points, including 15 on 5-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. Vaia scored 12 points and Hanley had 10, with both of them and the other three starters playing less than three full quarters with the game well in hand.

“Brady had a great game today, he’s the floor general,” Reingruber said. “JP will probably wind up being a 1,000-point scorer when it’s all said and done, and he and [Gilhooley] are both great leaders.”

McCottry was the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer last season and made the Metro Suburban All-Conference team.

R-B followed their defeat of the Knights with a 78-50 win over Romeoville. Next up is what should be a good test against Wheaton St. Francis at home on Dec. 17, then a battle with St. Edward in Elgin on Dec. 22. The Bulldogs will be at the 32-team Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York beginning on Dec. 27.

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