RIVERSIDE – Senior forward Dylan Meehan was among the underclassmen who rarely saw action with last year's Riverside-Brookfield boys basketball regional championship team.
This season’s newcomers brought the same old mentality.
“When last year ended we’ve always had that championship mentality,” Meehan said.
“We’ve just been there for each other and worked hard to build up to what they were last year. I think, I’d argue, even better just as a team and a family.”
The fourth-seeded Bulldogs kept this great season going Friday by defeating fifth-seeded Glenbard South 67-53 to win the Class 3A R-B Regional and advance to Tuesday’s Hinsdale South Sectional semifinals against top-seeded Bogan.
Three seniors scored in double figures for the Bulldogs (22-10) – Paul Zilinskas and Jamir Thurman with 17 points each and Meehan with 14.
After both teams had double-digit scoring runs in the first half, the Bulldogs led 24-23 at halftime. They finished the third quarter by outscoring the Raiders 18-8 for a 47-36 advantage and led by double digits throughout the fourth quarter.
“Our seniors have led us all year long and their experience and just senior toughness, savvy paid off tonight. The games where we’ve won big games, we’vebeen pretty balanced,” R-B coach Mike Reingruber said.
“Last year was obviously great. Every dude that’s out there, none of them really contributed to last year’s regional title. This was new for all of them so it’s special in that way too.”
The Bulldogs have won back-to-back regionals for the first time since 2010-11. It’s an especially new feeling for Zilinskas, a transfer this season from Richards who never won regionals with those Bulldogs.
“It feels amazing doing it on our home floor with all of fans and all of my teammates,” Zilinskas said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole career. It feels great. It’s the best feeling in the world.”
The Raiders (25-5) also had an impressive season, another 25-victory season with many new faces and nearly their fourth regional title in the past five seasons.
Senior Brandon Malone, a transfer this season from St. Joseph, had 19 points with two 3-pointers and junior Aryton Temcio scored 12 with eight rebounds.
“We came in with a lot of new faces, a lot of inexperienced guys and to put together back-to-back 25-win seasons, I’m proud of these guys. I thought we battled hard tonight,” Glenbard South coach Wade Hardtke said.
“They execute their stuff really well. They make you work really hard defensively and as soon as you take a break or make a mistake, they make you pay. There were a few possessions where we could have used a better shot or didn’t have a shot fall.”
The Raiders led 14-9 after one quarter on the strength of an 11-0 run after the Bulldogs scored the first five points. R-B then staged a 13-0 run in the second quarter before the Raiders scored that period’s final five points.
Hampered early by the Raiders’ tough man-to-man defense, the Bulldogs gained offensive momentum. Zilinskas and senior point Luke Gentile continually drove tithe basket in the second quarter, which soon was complemented by better outside shooting.
Leading 29-28, the Bulldogs began pulling away in the third quarter behind consecutive threes by Meehan, senior sixth-man Jack Stivers and Zilinskas. Meehan added to his seven-point third with a turnaround jumper and putback of a missed free throw for a 47-34 lead.
“That’s just fun,” Meehan said. “We’re for sure more comfortable (playing) here and the sixth man helps a lot, but honestly anywhere we go, I feel the same result. It’s definitely emotional, the last game here.”