For the second day in a row, Loyola used a suffocating defense to squeeze out a win at the Catholic League tournament.
Less than 24 hours after holding Providence Catholic to 32 points in the first round, the Ramblers beat Leo 39-28 in the quarterfinals Sunday at Fenwick. It was the second time Loyola allowed less than 30 points to an opponent. The Ramblers give up an average of 45.3 points a game.
With the win, Loyola (18-7) advances to Wednesday’s semifinals to play the top-seeded Friars (22-4) in Oak Park.
“I’m excited with how we have been guarding,” Loyola head coach Tom Livatino said. “Our attention to detail has been good. We’ve beaten two good teams because of our defense.”
Like Saturday, Loyola’s start was a sign of things to come. On the Lions’ first three possessions, they had two turnovers and missed a shot. The Ramblers took a total of five charges and limited Leo (18-7) to 3-for-12 from the 3-point line. Dachaun Anderson, Leo’s 6-foot-7 sophomore forward, finished with eight points, scoring only one basket in the second half.
“We have talked about our defense ever since the St. Rita game,” Loyola senior forward Matt Sechman said. “We have played really well on that end the last two games. We have to keep it going.”
Loyola never trailed after senior forward Kris Lampley scored the first basket of the game off an assist from junior guard Kevin Cunningham. The Ramblers led 19-13 at the half and 28-20 after three quarters following Sechman’s 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer.
After building an 11-point in the fourth, Loyola surrendered back-to-back 3s 14 seconds apart. But senior Ramar Evans responded with a layup on the next possession. The Ramblers held the Lions scoreless for the final 4 minutes, 54 seconds.
Sechman, who had a total of six points in the previous five games, finished with seven off the bench Saturday, all coming in the second half. He added one rebound, one steal and took two charges. In addition to his 3, he scored on a drive from the top of the key and made two free throws.
“This is one of my better games,” Sechman said. “That 3-pointer was a really good feeling because I had been struggling. I did a little bit of everything. That’s the kind of player I can be and I am.”
Livatino said Sechman had a “positive impact” in the win.
“He was a big boost to us,” Livatino added. “That 3 was big in a time and score situation. He took some charges. He’s accepted his role.”
Evans scored a team-best 15 points and is 13 away from 1,000 for his career. He currently is eighth on Loyola’s all-time scoring list with 987 points. Evans also had four rebounds, three steals and took two charges.
Cunningham finished with eight points and had two steals. Senior guard Matt Lynch had three points, three assists, one steal, one rebound and took one charge.
Loyola plays Fenwick for the second time this season. The Friars, who are ranked 11th by both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, beat the Ramblers 46-37 on Jan. 31.