Riverside-Brookfield overcomes St. Francis
After minimal varsity action last season, Riverside-Brookfield senior forward Jack Stivers continued showing significant offensive improvement Friday.
"I'm just trying to help the team however I can and if that means scoring, then I'll score," Stivers said.
"Recently in practice I've been going through all of the drills hard. it's just kind of a preparation thing. I just came in really prepared (Friday)."
Stivers collected a season-high 16 points and senior transfer Paul Zilinskis had 26 as the Bulldogs put on an impressive shooting display during their key 70-56 victory over visiting St. Francis to remain in the Metro Suburban Blue title chase.
Riverside-Brookfield (8-7, 2-2) made six of its first seven shots and 12 of 17 with six 3-pointers in opening a 31-14 lead three minutes into the second quarter.
"I think if people give me room and I start getting my shots, once they start hitting then I'm on fire," said Zilinskis, a varsity starter the past two seasons at Richards. "It's just confidence coming from preparation and just every time you catch the ball be ready to shoot."
The Bulldogs came out with the urgency of an almost must win. They collected five 3s in the first quarter and eight for the game.
Zilinskis had four and made his first three attempts in the first quarter. Stivers sank his first three shots, including his first of two 3s.
The Bulldogs' Dylan Meehan and J.D. Hanley added 9 points apiece and Jamir Truman had 7. The team finished shooting 26 for 48 and in shooting and 10 for 12 from the free-throw line.
"I wish that was typical all of the time, but when we get it going, shooting is kind of contagious. Paul leads us a lot of nights but a lot of different guys can score for us," Riverside-Brookfield coach Mike Reingruber said.
"This was huge for us because we really still control of our destiny in the league. The kids knew it. The kids were fired up and they delivered tonight."
Bryce Walker and Brendan Yarusso led St. Francis (9-8, 2-3). Robert Nocek and Eric Welch had 9 points each and Sebastian Miller 8.
"We knew they could shoot it. We didn't defend well at all," St. Francis coach Erin Dwyer said. "When you let a good-shooting team feel comfortable shooting the ball, you're not putting yourself in a position where you're going to win too many ballgames. Defense is a decision."
The Spartans did not succumb without a fight. They closed to 55-47 with 4:43 left on Welch's rebound and downcourt pass to Walker for a fastbreak bucket. They missed a chance to close to six on a midrange baseline jumper.
"I was proud of our fight. We came back," Dwyer said. "They shot the ball really well. They played really well. I thought we came out with a little bit better energy once we made a few adjustments."
Riverside-Brookfield , however, scored the next nine points over the next 3:30, including its final three from Stivers. This victory was among the Bulldogs' sweetest along with beating Oak Park-River Forest 88-79 Nov. 29.
"When we play well like that, we can run with anyone in the state," Stivers said.
"After our two conference losses (to IC Catholic Prep and Chicago Christian), that really left a bad taste in our mouths," Zilinskas added. "We wanted to come out and show that we're one of the best teams in the conference and came out firing."