Riverside-Brookfield senior guard Arius Alijosius wanted to share a special moment with his teammates during Thanksgiving.
As one of the few returnees from last season’s 23-win team, Alijosius is taking on a bigger responsibility this season. He’s a veteran with loads of big-game experience, and already committed to play at Division II Winona State.
Alijosius’ role this season will include much more than scoring, rebounding or flinging three-pointers. He’s expected to be a key voice and leader for the Bulldogs.
Thus, Alijosius wanted to keep in touch with his teammates during a brief break, prompting him to send a few pictures to his teammates of his Thanksgiving meal, which included some food from his native country, Lithuania.
“They didn’t like the food (pictures),” Alijosius said. “I showed them my plate. They thought it was nasty. They didn’t like the sides.”
That might be Alijosius’ only mistake this month. The 6-foot-3 sharpshooter is one of the top players in the area. He’s slated to become a big part of the offense following the graduation of numerous rotational players, mainly double-digit scorers JP Hanley, Joevonn McCottry and Joe Gilhooley. Alijosius said he benefitted from the coronavirus pandemic, with the extra free time transforming his game.
“During the lockdown, I had nothing to do, so my father would rebound for me,” he said. “I got a lot of reps in, and it just happened. I improved a lot, especially on my outside shooting.”
During the offseason, Alijosius said he focused on becoming more physical on all aspects of his game, along with improving his efficiency as a three-level scorer and his defensive communication and rebounding.
“We’re definitely a lot younger this year, and graduated a lot from last year,” he said. “I have to make my role bigger, and be a leader as the main senior out there. I want to have a great year, and be all-state, break the school record for three-pointers in a game and the season and I want to win a lot of games and have a deep playoff run.”
The Bulldogs (3-1) placed third in the 19th Annual Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Classic, beating Thornwood to close out the tourney behind a 26-point effort from Will Gonzalez. Alijosius paced the Bulldogs with a prolific shooting effort in a loss to highly ranked Curie, burying eight 3-pointers for a game-high 30 points. Gonzalez and Alijosius were both named to the all-tourney team.
“Will and Arius both had some big games for us,” Riverside-Brookfield coach Mike Reingruber said. “They’re our two main leaders and we expect them to continue to have a great season. I feel pretty good where we’re at right now. I saw a lot of positive things. We really shot the ball well, but my favorite thing was our defense. We really played hard.”
IC Catholic takes second
IC Catholic placed second in the Coal City Tournament with a 2-2 record. The Knights lost to Chicago Ag Science in the title game after opening the tourney with an overtime defeat to Peotone.
IC Catholic coach T.J. Tyrrell said his team showed some fortitude by bouncing back from a hard-fought defeat in their season opener.
“After the tough first loss in overtime, the team rallied together to make it to the tournament championship,” Tyrrell said. “Beating Beecher brought the guys closer together and gave us some confidence. Our rebounding drastically improved from the first game, as well as our ability to execute offensively.”
Senior Dominik Ciegotura is handling a heavy load of the offense until guard/forward Andrew Hill returns to full strength after a long football season. Ciegotura is averaging 15 points and 11 rebounds. He scored 20 points and pulled down 15 rebounds against Beecher. Junior Matthew Karsten is playing a key role, tallying 17 points and six assists against Beecher. He’s averaging four assists per game.
“One of the biggest surprises has been Matthew Karsten,” Tyrrell said. “He was battling for a role in the rotation and he solidified it with his effort and performance. He led us in assists and contributed in the scoring column. But more importantly, he has been executing both offensively and defensively. He has been a bright surprise.”
Another big season
Wheaton Warrenville South earned third place in the Fenton Tournment last week. The Tigers (3-1) are off to another solid start, with Jake Vozza and Luca Carbonaro both named to the all-tournament team. The Tigers’ lone loss came against Fremd, but they knocked off host Fenton in the third-place game.