For most of the first half, it looked as if Riverside-Brookfield and Glenbard South would come down to the final moments before anything was decided Friday night on Pack the Place night in Glen Ellyn.
However, a strong finish to the opening half, paired with a strong second half, gave R-B all the breathing room it needed in a 79-73 Metro Suburban Conference victory.
Riverside-Brookfield (9-3, 3-0) and Glenbard South (4-8, 2-2) went back and forth for the majority of the first half, as neither team led by more than four points. Then Raiders big man Dusko Despot was forced to the bench with three fouls and the Bulldogs took full advantage, as they ended the first half on a 14-6 run to stake the Bulldogs to a 43-35 halftime lead.
Leading the charge for Riverside-Brookfield were senior guard Ryan Jackson and 6-foot-9 senior center Alex Dziagwa.
"When their big man (Despot) went out, if I went to the basket or if anybody missed a shot, 'Big Z' was able to get some easy putbacks," Jackson said.
Jackson led all scorers with 29 points as he attacked the hoop as well as hit three 3-pointers to keep the Raiders' defense off-balance. Dziagwa also chipped in with 14 points and 8 rebounds.
"I was trying to get to the basket and get some fouls and get in a groove," Jackson said. "I also wanted to feed 'Big Z' for some easy layups."
The Bulldogs fattened their lead to 13 points after the third period, as they continued to attack the post while hitting some open 3-pointers.
Senior guard Joe Harks valiantly kept the Raiders within striking distance, pouring in a team-high 25 points, including 10 second-quarter points while Despot was on the bench in foul trouble.
"We let off them in the second half; we weren't as intense as we were in the first half," Harks said. "(Dziagwa) was taking over in the paint in the second half with Dusko in foul trouble and that hurt us a lot."
Despot finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, but despite his double-double, the Raiders' inability to stop the Bulldogs from controlling the paint, both defensively and on the glass sealed their fate.
"We knew if we kept playing good defense they would eventually start missing shots and we would keep hitting ours," Jackson said. "With their big man on the bench it was easy for us."