BENSENVILLE – Patience is a virtue for the Riverside Brookfield boys basketball team, but after a winning weekend the Bulldogs showed they may not need too much more of it.
The Bulldogs got off to a rocky start at their own Thanksgiving tournament, posting a 2-2 record. However, RB had an impressive pair of wins over the weekend by defeating Fenton 85-36 and a good Lyons Township team 77-74.
“We dropped a couple, but as the tournament went on we got better as a team,” senior forward Jack VandeMerkt said after the win at Fenton. “It was a tough competition tournament, so when we get into conference play like this it translates.”
The 49-point win over Fenton was the Metro Suburban Conference opener for both teams. RB (4-2) scored 34 points in the first quarter and 12 different players scored in the game.
On Saturday, RB raced out to a 14-point lead after a quarter against the neighboring Lions. The Bulldogs led 49-30 at halftime and by 16 points after three quarters, but LT rallied to get within a point on multiple occasions. Will Kincanon (28 points) and VandeMerkt (21 points, 11 rebounds) led the way.
The back-to-back wins show the early progress the Bulldogs, who feature just two seniors in Kincanon and VandeMerkt, have made.
“Some teams that are very experienced, there’s not much area to improve,” RB coach Tom McCloskey said. “We’re just going to get better and better as the season goes on. Hopefully, we’ll be a really good team by the end of the year.”
One of the keys is both seniors are a big part of the team. VandeMerkt, who is narrowing down his choices between a handful of Division III programs, and Kincanon, a Division I pitcher committed to Middle Tennessee State, are both future college athletes.
VandeMerkt has scored 15 or more in all six games so far and is averaging 20.5 points per game. Kincanon has put up 23 or more in four games.
Beyond its two talented seniors, RB has plenty of height to help it dominate the glass. VandeMerkt is 6-foot-7 with long arms, but is allowed to show off his shooting range thanks to inside players Mark Smith (6-7), Sam Johnson (6-6) and Paul Sitkiewicz (6-5).
“A lot of guys stick their 6-7 guy inside, but we have the luxury of letting me play on the perimeter and letting the younger guys bang around inside,” VandeMerkt said. “It’s good for rebounds. We shouldn’t get outrebounded once all year.”
The Bulldogs next play Dec. 17 at Timothy Christian in an MSC game.
RB 85, Fenton 36
RB leaders • Jack VandeMerkt 19 points • Mark Smith 16 points, 7 rebounds • Paul Sitkiewicz 12 points • Kevin Fitzgerald 12 points
RB 77, Lyons Township 74
RB leaders • Will Kincanon 28 points • VandeMerkt 21 points, 11 rebounds • Sam Johnson 11 points, 8 rebounds • Daniko Jackson 7 points, 8 assists