Loyola had little room for error Tuesday at home in its matchup with Fenwick.
Not only do the Friars lead the Catholic North, they are one of the best teams in the Chicago area and figure to be one of the favorites to win the Class 3A state championship. They are the No. 11-ranked team by the Chicago Tribune and No. 12 by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Ramblers gave the Friars a game, but they couldn’t pull off the upset, losing 46-37. It was Loyola’s first loss since a 69-67 overtime defeat to Taft on Dec. 23, snapping a string of 10 consecutive wins.
‘We didn’t make shots, and we turned it over too much,” Loyola head coach Tom Livatino said. “I thought we guarded well enough to be in a position to win. But when your turnovers are high and your shooting percentage is low, that’s a bad combination. You can’t do that against good teams, and that’s one of the best teams in the state. They will be a very tough out at the state tournament.”
Loyola (15-6, 6-2) trailed 35-31 with 2 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the third quarter after two free throws by senior guard Ramar Evans. But Fenwick (17-4, 8-0) closed the quarter on a 6-0 run, with junior guard AJ Nixon hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put the Friars ahead 41-31.
Senior forward Julian DeGuzman converted a 3-point play at the 5:31 mark of the fourth to leave the score 41-34, but the Ramblers couldn’t get any closer than seven.
Fenwick gave Loyola chances by shooting poorly from the free throw line. The Friars were 1-for-7 in the fourth and 5-for-16 for the game.
Loyola finished 14-for-37 from the field, including 3-for-16 from 3-point range. The Ramblers turned over the ball 16 times.
Evans had 13 points and nine rebounds, while DeGuzman scored 11 points to go with three rebounds. He did a good job defending Fenwick senior forward Jamal Nixon, one of the team’s best players.
“We had a meat-grinder of a five-day stretch,” Livatino said. “It’s been great for us. We are disappointed with the result [Tuesday], but we are not angry about anything. The good thing is there is a lot of room for improvement.”
Before the game, Loyola had a moment of silence to honor the memory of former teacher and coach Jim O’Donnell, who died Monday at the age of 76. He was Loyola’s boys basketball coach from 1980-88, compiling a record of 123-89 and winning two Class AA regional titles. O’Donnell served as the varsity football team’s public address announcer for 36 seasons.
“It’s a tremendous loss,” Livatino said. “He was a great guy, and he loved Loyola. It’s a sad day for the program. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”