Loyola doesn’t have much margin for error against teams like Evanston — ranked No. 4 by the Chicago Tribune and No. 6 by the Chicago Sun-Times — according to head coach Tom Livatino.
Which is why the Ramblers needed to take care of the ball, limit the Wildkits to one shot per possession and make free throws, Livatino said.
In Tuesday’s 43-40 loss on the road, Loyola turned it over 17 times, went 2-for-6 on free throws and allowed Evanston multiple opportunities on the offensive end. The Ramblers didn’t take a charge.
“We have to be perfect on those types of things, and we were far from that,” Livatino said.
The game was close throughout, with neither team ahead by more than seven points. Loyola (21-4) led 19-15 at the half and 28-27 after three quarters.
But the Wildkits (19-4) scored the first eight points of the fourth to go up 35-28 with 5 minutes, 4 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The Ramblers had a chance late after junior guard Connor Barrett hit a 3-pointer to cut Evanston’s lead to 39-38 with 34.1 seconds to go. But the Wildkits made all four of their free throws to hold on for the win. It was the fewest points Evanston has scored this season.
Barrett hit four 3s and finished with a team-best 14 points. Sophomore forward Bennett Kwiecinski (pictured above) had 12 points and five rebounds. Senior guard Kevin Cunningham scored eight points and had four assists, while senior forward Pete Mangan contributed six points and five rebounds.
Evanston was led by junior guards Jaheim Holden and Lance Jones. Holden scored a game-high 15 and went 4-for-4 on free throws in the final 25.6 seconds. Jones added 12 points. The Wildkits were 14-for-19 from the free throw line.
“I’m not going to be fooled by the score and think we played well,” Livatino said. “They did a nice job, and they have a good team. But we have to be accountable for how we play.”
Loyola now is 4-2 against teams at the Class 4A Maine East Sectional, which includes Evanston. Despite the defeat, the Ramblers should be line for one of the top four seeds when the IHSA announces the postseason pairings next week.
The Ramblers have three games remaining in the regular season. They complete a stretch of four road games in a row Friday when they travel to play St. Joseph in the Catholic Blue. Loyola is alone in second at 5-1, while Fenwick leads the league at 7-0. The Ramblers and Friars play Feb. 16 in Wilmette.
“Friday is a monumental game,” Livatino said. “But if we do the same stuff we did [Tuesday], we will be 0-2 this week.”
Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola