For two quarters Tuesday, Loyola looked like a team poised to upset the top seed at the Class 4A Waukegan Sectional.
But Evanston came out of the locker room and showed why its a contender for the state championship, turning a one-point halftime lead into a 71-45 win over the fourth-seeded Ramblers.
The Wildkits, the Chicago Tribune’s No. 1-ranked team, play in the sectional final Friday against either second-seeded Notre Dame or sixth-seeded Waukegan.
Ahead 29-28 at the half, Evanston (27-3) used a 12-0 run to start the third quarter and went into the fourth up 50-35. The Wildkits held the Ramblers to one field goal in the third quarter and two for the second half.
“They punched us in the mouth and staggered us,” said Loyola guard Ramar Evans, one of 10 seniors to close out his prep career. “We never got back into it after that. They ended up knocking us out.”
Behind senior forward Julian DeGuzman’s 10 points, Loyola led 15-14 after the first quarter. He then scored Loyola’s first four points of the second to put the Ramblers ahead 19-17.
Evanston took a 27-23 lead with 2 minutes, 10 seconds to go before the break, but senior guard Matt Lynch closed the gap to one, 29-28, with his last-second 3-pointer.
DeGuzman scored 16 of his game-high 19 points in the first half.
“I was running the court and doing what I normally do,” he said. “No one was around, so they were just giving me the ball.”
That all changed in the second half.
“They figured out what to do against us,” DeGuzman said. “Maybe they didn’t know how to handle us at first, but whatever they talked about at the half worked.”
In his final game as a Rambler, DeGuzman also had five rebounds. Senior guard Kai Khasu scored seven points, while junior guard Kevin Cunningham also contributed seven points. Evans, the leader and captain, finished his Loyola career with five points, four rebounds and five assists. Senior Jack Martinus had six assists.
Evanston senior guard and Purdue-bound Nojel Eastern finished with 17 points. Senior guard Malcolm Townsel added 16 points, and senior Chris Hamil contributed 12 points.