ELK GROVE – Riverside Brookfield’s boys basketball team was armed with a lot of physical talent and won 21 games, so it was easy to forget that it had just two seniors on the team.
Led by seniors Will Kincanon and Jack VandeMerkt and armed with a talented group of juniors and sophomores, the Bulldogs enjoyed another winning season that featured a 13th straight conference title. However, the season came to an end with a loss to Proviso East in the final of the Class 4A Elk Grove regional Friday.
The Pirates beat the Bulldogs 72-65 in a game that was tied entering the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs (21-7) even led by four early in the fourth quarter before East made a run to take the lead for good. RB fell behind by 12 points in the first half, but made a game of it before the Pirates emerged victorious down the stretch.
“I thought we started out struggling,” RB coach Tom McCloskey said. “We had 10 turnovers in the first quarter, and then we had three in the second and only one in the third. We fell down by 12, but I was proud of how we came back.”
VandeMerkt and Sam Johnson both had double-doubles. Kevin Fitzgerald and Kincanon also scored in double figures.
“It was a tough loss, but we had a great year,” McCloskey said. “With only two seniors on this team we really achieved a lot.”
VandeMerkt and Kincanon were both Metro Suburban all-conference players this year while also being multi-sport athletes at RB. VandeMerkt, who also played football and was the conference champion in the high jump last spring, is still deciding which college he will attend and play basketball for next year. Kincanon now preps for RB’s baseball season before heading to Middle Tennessee State to continue his pitching career.
“They both had big senior years,” McCloskey said. “They both had [some] big nights with many contributions in different areas of the game.”
McCloskey admitted the expectations will be higher next season with five major contributors returning. Johnson was an all-conference player and sophomore point guard Daniko Jackson was honorable mention. Fitzgerald and post players Mark Smith and Paul Sitkiewicz should also be key players next year. All five were varsity newcomers this season.
“I think we’ll put a lot of time in the summer and get ourselves ready for the season,” McCloskey said. “We had a good sophomore team this year and we’ll put it all together.”
Regional final: Proviso East 72, Riverside Brookfield 65
• Jack VandeMerkt: 18 points, 12 rebounds • Sam Johnson: 15 points, 12 rebounds • Kevin Fitzgerald: 14 points • Will Kincanon: 10 points, eight rebounds
Regional semifinal: RB 76, Wheaton North 60
• Kincanon: 23 points, 12 rebounds • VandeMerkt: 17 points • Johnson: 12 points • Daniko Jackson: Seven points, six assists