Everything is back to normal for Riverside-Brookfield basketball.
Since the 2001-02 season, the Bulldogs have been a consistent winner — first under Tom McCloskey and now Mike Reingruber.
In fact, the Bulldogs have experienced just two losing seasons in the last 17 seasons.
After losing nearly their entire rotation from last season’s 29-win team, the Bulldogs managed to win just seven of their first 14 games this season. For the Bulldogs, .500 records are definitely not acceptable, especially on the heels of 10 seasons of at least 21 wins in the last 11 seasons.
“We were a very inexperienced group in the sense that none of these guys have played under the bright lights (with us) last year,” Reingruber said. “We lost some heartbreakers early in the season. As time went on, we got used to playing in some of these pressure situations and winning some of them. It became a learning process. The kids never wavered and bought in.”
Reingruber also credits a late December meeting with his players discussing the importance of believing in the process of winning.
“We talked and preached that we are going to turn this thing around,” he said. “We talked about staying together and in the second half of the year that we would be ready to turn this thing around. I remember telling them that I’ve been doing this (coaching) a long time, and for whatever reason, our teams get better in January and February.
“The funny thing is we had another tough loss the next game to Brother Rice, but I thought we played well that game.”
Reingruber’s words have rung true, with the Bulldogs (17-8) winning 10 of their last 11 games since losing to Brother Rice on Jan. 7.
Senior forward Paul Zilinskas is R-B’s go-to player, but Reingruber noted the play of point guard Luke Gentile, forward Dylan Meehan and forward Jamir Truman, among others, for helping lead the Bulldogs to a possible 20-win season.
“Jamir has been playing really good,” Reingruber said. “He’s been stepping up and playing with more confidence. Luke has been rock solid and makes very few mistakes and puts us in a position to be successful. It’s been different guys. Our goal is to be playing our best in the state tournament.”
Truman went from a seldom used reserve last season to key starter. The 6-foot-5 senior forward credited Reingruber’s speech for helping turn around the Bulldogs’ fortunes.
“We were used to winning, so it was stressful, but we had that team meeting and everything coach said has come true,” Truman said. “We were all pretty frustrated, but now I think we can do really good in the playoffs. Our class has been pretty successful the last four years, from our freshman year.”
Truman’s defense in the paint and on the perimeter is another factor in the Bulldogs’ surge.
“I’ve become one of the (best) defenders on the team,” Truman said. “I have to bang down with a lot of bigs and just be aggressive. That’s the key for me.
Glenbard West loses Huff
Glenbard West promising sophomore forward Braden Huff suffered a season-ending patella dislocation in last Friday’s defeat to Downers Grove North. The 6-foot-9 Huff, a deadly shooter with length, is expected to be out four to five weeks, according to Glenbard West coach Jason Opoka. Although Huff’s injury rules him out for the rest of the season, Opoka said he was relieved to hear Huff avoided a serious ACL injury.
“Braden’s injury is disappointing, but we will rally around it,” Opoka said. “We need to be flexible and continue to challenge each other to get in a position where we are playing our best basketball by the playoffs.”
In 21 games, Huff averaged 15.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.9 blocks per game. He shot 51% from the field, 77% from the free-throw line and made 34 3-pointers at a 39% rate.
Benet will honor the 2009-10 team during halftime of Saturday’s home game against Indiana powerhouse La Lumiere. Nearly the entire team is expected to attend the 5 p.m. game, most notably Phoenix Suns forward Frank Kaminsky and former Northwestern standout point guard David Sobolewski.
That team helped raise the standard for the program, winning every single game in the East Suburban Catholic Conference on the way to winning the program’s first sectional title in 27 seasons. They lost a memorable supersectional to Simeon and then freshman Jabari Parker.
Led by Kaminsky and Sobolewski, the Redwings reached the Class 4A supersectional in 2009-10 and then posted a 29-1 record the following season to cap a sensational two-year record of 55-5.
This current Benet team gets a tough test Saturday. La Lumiere guard Jaden Ivy, a Purdue recruit, is the top senior in the state of Indiana.