Within the first four seconds of Monday’s season opener, Loyola junior guard Connor Barrett dove headfirst onto the floor for a loose ball.
“That was something good,” Loyola head coach Tom Livatino said.
Other than that and the seven charges taken by the Ramblers, Livatino wasn’t too happy with his team’s 44-32 win at home over Von Steuben.
“A little rugged, a little ragged,” he said. “We have a long way to go.”
The game was scoreless for nearly five minutes before sophomore guard Matt Enghauser came off the bench to make a 3-pointer at the 3:19 mark to give Loyola the lead. He was one of eight varsity rookies to play in the first quarter.
“Our lack of experience showed, but we will continue to get better,” Livatino said. “There is a lot of room for improvement.”
After leading 16-12 at the half, Loyola separated itself with an 8-0 run to start the third quarter, highlighted by back-to-back 3-pointers from senior forward Vahe Kalayjian and 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Bennett Kwiecinski.
The Ramblers went into the fourth up 36-21 and increased their advantage to as many as 17 in the final quarter. The Panthers got as close as 12.
Senior guard Kevin Cunningham — Loyola’s lone returning starter — scored nine points and took two charges. Senior forward Pete Mangan, a bench player last season, added eight points, five assists and three charges. In his varsity debut, Kwiecinski scored nine points. Kalayjian, a second-year varsity player, contributed six points.
“This is not the game we were expecting to play, and we are disappointed,” Cunningham said. “We are not where we want to be, but it’s early.”
Loyola lost 10 seniors, including three-year starter Ramar Evans, from last season’s team that finished 22-9 and won a Class 4A regional championship. Livatino said he’s leaned on captains Cunningham and Mangan for leadership as the Ramblers rebuild.
“They did as good of job in the offseason as anybody we’ve ever had,” Livatino said. “Their work ethic is absolutely phenomenal. They are our dynamic duo.”
Kalayjian has made the jump from role player as a junior to starter this season. Livatino said he likes his offensive game and toughness. Defense is where he needs to improve, according to Livatino.
Barrett and Kwiecinski joined Cunningham, Mangan and Kalayjian in the starting lineup Monday.
“I like our team, but it’s different from last year,” Livatino said. “We struggled in all areas [Monday], but we will get better. This will be a good team.”