BOURBONNAIS — After the opening night of the newly-remodeled Thanksgiving Classic at Olivet Nazarene University gave the Bradley-Bourbonnais boys basketball team a day off from the tournament for the first time ever, the Boilers made their presence felt Wednesday night after outlasting Bishop McNamara in a defensive struggle by a 43-34 margin to take the 2019 installation of the All-City rivalry.

In the boys game, the Boilers built an early 16-8 lead that they held on for the game’s final three quarters, despite the occasional spurts from the Irish that kept it competitive.

Points were at a premium in the matchup between the Irish’s man-to-man defense and the Boilers’ blending of man-to-man and zone defense, as Bradley-Bourbonnais’ Gabe Renchen (14 points) and McNamara’s Darrick Ford (10 points) were the only players to break the double-figure scoring threshold.

Despite the low scoring, the Boilers were able to play “good enough” to beat their crosstown rivals in the eyes of coach Alex Renchen.

“Like I told the guys, I’m a process guy. It’s always good to get a win but we’ve just got to get better on some things,” Alex Renchen said. “But we played good enough in stretches to get the win.”

For Gabe Renchen, Wednesday kicked off the start of his third Thanksgiving Classic in winning style for the first time in his varsity career.

“It was a good team effort; the boys came out and played hard,” Gabe Renchen said. “Everyone’s just doing their job and it felt good to get a win.”

While the Boilers’ guard is a hardened veteran by now, Wednesday marked the first tournament and All-City competition for towering 6-foot-6 center Owen Freeman, who was crafty inside in putting up his eight points and owned the boards with a game-high 12 rebounds.

Freeman has played just a week’s worth of games at the varsity level, a level he said he’s still adjusting to.

“The game’s a lot faster,” Freeman said. “I have to work harder, both on and off the court with grades and everything.

“I’ve just got to bust my butt every day in practice, go out and get it and play with confidence in my game.”

For the Irish, Wednesday marked the second sluggish offensive start in as many days, as the team has reached the double-digit scoring mark in just one of eight quarters to start the season.

Coach Adrian Provost said that this year’s team lacks a dominant scorer like they did last year with Payton Gerberding, so finding offensive balance and creating easy scoring opportunities via their defense will be key, the latter of which may take a while after a postseason football run delayed most of the team’s start to the basketball season.

“We don’t have that one kid, but we have a lot of kids that can do a variety of things, so we have to put them in position where they can score,” Provost said. “We need to be able to use our defense to create some easy offensive opportunities, but we’re not in game shape yet, so we can’t really get up and down.”

Stat Book

Gabe Renchen added three rebounds, two assists and a steal to his game-high 14 points, while Freeman’s eight points were next highest for the Boilers. T Sykes had six points.

After Ford’s 10 points, Owen Jackson and Andrew Arseneau had eight points apiece, with Jackson adding five rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Girls: BBCHS 41, Bishop McNamara 26

Head coach Evan Tingley and his Lady Boilers have beaten two of the top teams in Illinois already this season in Thornwood and Hillcrest, but have also lost a pair of games to Crete-Monee and Bloom this season as the team has struggled to find consistency early on.

That was evident with outstanding play in some stretches and offensive coldstreaks at other points in Wednesday’s meeting with Bishop McNamara, but the good ultimately outweighed the bad in a 41-26 victory over the Irish.

A 24-7 second quarter in which the Boilers upped the pressure defensively and conversely found easier offensive opportunities ultimately sealed the deal for Bradley-Bourbonnais, especially after the Irish came out hot in the third and even briefly trimmed their deficit to as close as eight points.

“When shots are falling, we have the potential be a really really competitive team,” Tingley said of a 24-7 run the Boilers made during the game’s second frame. “I think that’s what you saw in the second quarter, and then you saw the opposite of that in the third.”

And in that second quarter, it was Evey Evans who gave the Boilers the jolt they needed. The senior wing scored eight of her game-high 19 points in the middle frame, with a pair of 3-pointers sandwiching a triple from Emma Russell to help spark a 13-0 run to open the quarter.

Evans said that as a fourth-year varsity player, she feels the need to step up for her tightly-knit team.

“I feel like they look up to me so I try to be someone I can look up to,” Evans said. “I feel like we do such a good job playing together, have such good camaraderie and don’t have any team drama, so it helps that we love playing together.”

After the Irish and Kankakee played the first-ever girls game at the Thanksgiving Classic Tuesday, it was the Boilers’ turn to make their program debut Wednesday, which they did in victorious fashion.

“It’s fun playing right here in town at a great facility and it’s cool to play back-to-back with the guys and draw a little bigger crowd,” Tingley said. “These girls have worked really hard and it’s about honoring them, their brand of basketball and the things they’ve built over the past 5-10 years.”

Stat Book

Evans added 12 rebounds, an assist and two steals to her 19 points. Russell finished with 11 points, a rebound, three assists and two steals. Gaetana Davis went for eight points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Claudia Dolliger nearly posted a double-double for the Irish, finishing with nine points, 12 rebounds, an assist, two steals and a block. Amari Stevenson had six points, two rebounds and an assist. Ty Hill and Olivia Lorence each had four points.

A version of this story appeared in the Friday digital edition of the Daily Journal.

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