By Bob Skolnik
They stayed close for a half, but in the second half the Riverside Brookfield boys' basketball team couldn't keep up with top-seeded Bogan as the Bengals ended the Bulldogs season with a 71-44 lopsided loss at a IHSA Class 3A Hinsdale South sectional semifinal game Tuesday evening in Darien.
"A really good team took it to us today," Reingruber said of Bogan which finished second in the state last year in Class 3A losing the state championship game in overtime to East Saint Louis.
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs (22-11) started fast with senior Dylan Meehan hitting a three-pointer on the first possession of the game. After the Bulldogs led 5-2, Bogan (29-3) went on an 8-0 run to lead 10-5, but the Bulldogs battled back with a three-point play by Meehan and a put back by Jamir Truman to tie the game at 10.
After trailing 18-15 at the end of the first quarter, a three-pointer by guard Ryan Gaynor on the first possession of the second quarter tied the game again. A driving layup by Paul Zilinskas tied the game for the last time at 22 with 6:03 left in the second quarter. 41 seconds later a three-point play by Bogan's Darrion Jones put the Bengals ahead to from then on.
Truman scored inside to bring the Bulldogs to within one at 25-24 with 4:32 remaining in the second quarter but after that the Bulldogs went cold going 7:37 without a point. During that time, which spanned the end of the second quarter and the first 3:04 of the third quarter, Bogan outscored the Bulldogs 11-0 to take control.
Bogan led 30-24 at the half as sophomore J.P. Hanley and Meehan both missed the front end of one and one free throws late in the first half. The free throw misses continued in the third quarter when Truman missed two free throws that could have pulled the Bulldogs to within four.
"When you want to beat a great team like Bogan there's very little room for error," Reingruber said. "Those are shots we need to make."
Hanley finally broke the dry spell by hitting a three-pointer for his only points of the game to pull the Bulldogs within nine with 4:56 left in the third quarter but Bogan responded with an 11-2 run to blow the game open.
All Area player Antoine Bloxton, who didn't start the game and came in midway through the first quarter, led Bogan with 25 points (16 came in the second half). Kyndall Davis added 14 for Bogan.
Meehan led the Bulldogs with 13 points, Zilinskas finished with 12 and Truman scored 10. Hanley, Gaynor, and senior Joseph Mieczkowski each scored three points for the Bulldogs, each hitting a three-pointer.
The Bulldogs had trouble getting open looks against Bogan's quick and long defenders and made only five of 17 shots in the second half.
"Shots weren't dropping for us," Reingruber said. "They're really good. They come after you in waves."
Despite the loss the Bulldogs were proud on their season. Without a single returning starter, the Bulldogs, bolstered by the transfer of Zilinskas from Richards where he had started since he was a sophomore, shared their third consecutive conference title and won 22 gams and a regional championship. Wins over Fenwick and Oak Park and River Forest High School opened eyes and were particularly satisfying. They also enjoyed a second half run where they won 13 of their last 16 regular season games.
After the game, Truman was disappointed with the loss and the end of the season but was proud of the season that the Bulldogs had.
"It sucks of course, but we tried our hardest," Truman said. "We gave it everything we got this season. Nobody really expected us to be good this season, but we just pretty much proved everybody wrong."
Truman, a 6-5 forward, was one of the players who emerged this year.
"Jamir has been one of the most improved kids we've had in our program over a four-year span," Reingruber said. "He's a great kid and a super hard worker and I believe he's going to play at the next level at a Division III school and I believe the best is yet to come for him."
The Bulldogs were a senior dominated team this year, starting four seniors along with sophomore Hanley. Seniors Gaynor, Jack Stivers, and Kentay McCottry played major roles as key reserves.
"This senior group means a ton to me," Reingruber said. "They've been winners every step of the way. They're gym rats, they love being in the gym, great kids, great teammates, super fun to be around every single day and I'm going to miss them."
As usual the underclass RBHS teams each won more than 20 games this season and next year the Bulldogs will rebuild around Hanley, their only returning starter who showed a lot of talent and potential as a sophomore starting on varsity.
"John Paul is obviously going to carry a big load for us, but we have some talented juniors and some talented sophomores," Reingruber said. "The expectations will be the same, still high expectations for our guys. Expectations will be very high still."
Even if the Bulldogs had won versus Bogan, it wouldn't have mattered. The IHSA canceled its state tournament due to the concerns around COVID-19 spreading amongst teams in the playoffs.