Loyola’s toughest stretch of the schedule comes to a close Tuesday when the Ramblers host Fenwick, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The Friars entered the week in first place in the Catholic North at 7-0. Loyola and DePaul Prep are tied for second at 6-1. According to Loyola head coach Tom Livatino, the Fenwick (16-4) will be one of the best teams — if not the best — the Ramblers (15-5) have played this season.

“They don’t have a weak player that plays for them,” Livatino said of the Chicago Sun-Times No. 12-ranked team. “They are well-coached and have played a tough schedule. Without a doubt this will be a big challenge for us.”

Fenwick, the defending Catholic North champions, has dominated the conference, beating its opponents by an average of 30.3 points. Friday’s 66-51 win over St. Joseph was the Friars’ smallest margin of victory in league play. Fenwick’s four losses have been to Benet, Young, Uplift and Simeon — a who’s who of the Chicago-area’s elite programs.

That doesn’t mean the Ramblers will be happy to merely compete.

“We expect to win,” Livatino said. “But we are going to have play the best game we’ve played all season.”

Fenwick is headlined by seniors Jacob Keller and Jamal Nixon. Keller has missed some games recently, but Livatino said he expects the 6-foot-4 guard to play Tuesday. Other key players for the Friars include 6-5 junior forward Mike O’Laughlin and freshman guard DJ Steward.

“The can knock down perimeter shots, score in the post or off the dribble,” Livatino said. “They play multiple defenses and they are a load from a physical standpoint.”

After beating St. Ignatius and St. Patrick over the weekend, Loyola earned its first spot in the rankings, coming in at No. 23 in the Sun-Times poll. Seniors Ramar Evans and Matt Lynch said the Ramblers, winners of 10 in a row, are playing with a lot of confidence right now.

“These are the games you look forward to playing,” Lynch said. “We want to be able to show what we can do, to show we can play with teams at a high level.”

Pictured above (from top to bottom, left to right): Seniors Julian DeGuzman, Kris Lampley, Matt Sechman, Teddy Falkenhayn, Matt Lynch, Tony Reyes, Jimmy Alexopoulos, Jack Martinus, Kai Khasu, Ramar Evans,

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola