St. Francis goes cold in key conference loss to Riverside-Brookfield
JP Hanley and Joe Gilhooley are hard to distinguish on the basketball court.
The Riverside Brookfield senior forwards are both 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds and can shoot well, rebound and play tough-nosed defense with equal aplomb.
After what they did Tuesday night, St. Francis has seen more than enough of them.
Hanley and Gilhooley both scored a team-high 14 points. Hanley added a game-high 13 rebounds and two blocks, while Gilhooley had nine boards and one block to lead the visiting Bulldogs to a 60-49 Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division victory over St. Francis at the Spyglass Center.
The win puts R-B (17-4, 8-1) in the driver's seat in the conference race with three games remaining. The Bulldogs swept the season series from the Spartans (18-7, 6-2), who have four league games left.
"They both played great games," R-B coach Mike Reingruber said. "They've both been great for us all year long.
"They are a little different, but they're seniors, they're leaders, they've put their heart and soul into this program and they're competitors."
It showed from the start in this game. Hanley scored the first five points and eight of the first 10 for the Bulldogs, who led 15-6 following a 3-pointer by Brady Vaia. R-B led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter before settling for a 31-22 halftime cushion.
Hanley had 10 points and seven rebounds in the first half while Gilhooley spent much of the first two quarters on the bench in foul trouble.
But Gilhooley, who did not attempt a shot in the first half, erupted after the break, shooting 7 of 8. Most of the baskets came in the paint as the Bulldogs battled ferociously for rebounds. Gilhooley and Hanley combined for nine of their team's 13 offensive rebounds.
Gilhooley scored on a putback early in the fourth quarter, then blocked a shot. William Gonzalez followed with a runner from the left side to extend the lead to 48-28.
"JP and I have been playing together since fourth grade, so we kind of just know where we are whenever," Gilhooley said. "He'll shoot the 3 one game and I'll crash the boards. We're pretty much interchangeable."
Indeed, Gilhooley's play in the second half mirrored what Hanley did before the break. But Gilhooley's strong offensive showing wasn't by design.
"I think that's how it came," Gilhooley said. "I picked up two early ones in the first half and I couldn't really get going.
"Once in the second half, they started pressuring a bit more and I started to get in a groove and just went from there."
With Gilhooley in good rhythm, Hanley needed to take only three shots in the second half. That's often how it goes and it gives opponents fits.
"We both have a similar skill set," Hanley said. "We both push each other really hard in practice and we build off each other.
"We were able to get a win tonight, which was good."
They did, though the Spartans made them work hard for it.
Sharpshooters Brendan Yarusso and Sebastian Miller weren't as accurate as usual, but they buried a blizzard of contested 3-pointers down the stretch. The seniors combined to score 17 of the Spartans' 21 points in the fourth quarter. Miller's 3-pointer with 1:34 left capped a 19-5 run that cut the deficit to 53-47.
Jack Brennan later scored on a layup with 1:04 remaining to make it 55-49, but Gilhooley converted a traditional three-point play with 49.9 seconds to go to ice it.
"We knew Yarusso and Miller shoot the ball really well, so our big strategy was to take away the 3s and make them put it on the floor, and help in the gaps," Hanley said. "We did that really well."
Indeed, despite the late flurry, Yarusso and Miller combined to shoot 13 for 41. Yarusso had a game-high 22 points and Miller added 12 points and seven boards.
"It just seemed like we couldn't get any consistent looks," St. Francis coach Erin Dwyer said. "I thought they defended very well and then when we did get good looks, we just didn't shoot it very well.
"But I was proud of the kids. We showed a lot of fight. The kids don't give up. They're exhausted and they left their hearts on the court."