Even though Loyola has the best seed at the Class 4A regional at Zion-Benton, head coach Tom Livatino said winning Tuesday’s semifinal game will be no easy task.

Ever since the IHSA went to four classes for the 2007-08 season, the regional rounds have become more competitive, especially in the largest class, according to Livatino.

“To win a semifinal game in the regional is an accomplishment now,” he said Monday. “It used to be you see the better teams in a regional final or more likely a sectional semifinal, but that’s not the case anymore. We know we will have a tough game.”

The No. 4 seed at the Waukegan Sectional, the Ramblers play No. 13 Highland Park at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The Giants (15-13) earned a trip to the semifinals with their 76-51 win over Taft on Monday.

Livatino said the Giants, led by junior guard Ziv Tal, will be a difficult matchup for the Ramblers. It will be the first time the Ramblers have played Highland Park in Livatino’s eight seasons.

“They run a ball press and play a 3-2 zone, something they’ve been doing for years,” he said. “They are a very good shooting team and well-coached. [Tal] is an exceptional player.”

Loyola (20-8) enters the state playoffs confident and healthy, Livatino said. The Ramblers took third at the Catholic League tournament and have won 15 of their last 18 games. Included in those three losses were two to Class 3A championship contender Fenwick and to St. Rita by one point.

After missing the last two games with a back injury, junior guard Kevin Cunningham will play Tuesday, according to Livatino. Senior guard Matt Lynch, who suffered a bruise in his leg in the regular-season finale Feb. 21 against Steinmetz, also is ready to go.

“I loved the time we’ve had to prepare,” Livatino said. “Hopefully, it will pay off.”

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola