Loyola head coach Tom Livatino called Tuesday’s season-ending loss in the Class 4A sectional semifinal at Maine East the best of his career.
It makes sense.
Down by 20 points at the 4:31 mark of the second quarter, the No. 4-seeded Ramblers rallied to tie the game at 35-all less than nine minutes later on senior forward Pete Mangan’s layup. Loyola had a chance to take the lead late in the third quarter after another Mangan layup.
Top-seeded Evanston eventually pulled away for the 61-51 win. It was the second year in a row the Wildkits ended Loyola’s season at the sectionals.
“It’s tough to go out, but I’m so not surprised how we battled back,” Livatino said.
Senior guard Kevin Cunningham played a large role in the comeback, making four 3-pointers and scoring 13 of his team-best 24 points during a span of 3:09 as part of Loyola’s 28-8 stretch that evened the score. He converted a 4-point play that preceded Mangan’s game-tying layup.
“Kevin left every ounce of his being out on that court,” Livatino said. “I’m so proud of him and all of our seniors. The last game is all about the seniors, and these guys accomplished a lot.”
Turnovers put Loyola (24-7) in a hole early. Evanston (24-5) forced five in the first quarter to take a 15-5 lead and went ahead 27-7 with a basket off a turnover. Junior guard Lance Jones scored 15 of his game-high 25 points to help the Wildkits to the early advantage.
The Ramblers then started chipping away at the deficit, starting with a 5-0 run. They closed out the half by scoring eight consecutive points, including Cunningham’s 3 at the buzzer.
Livatino said the mood in the locker room was “subdued.”
“It was like, guys, we are going to be fine,” he said. “But we couldn’t get over the hump in the fourth quarter.”
Sophomore forward Jordan Kwiecinski scored 10 points in the loss. Mangan had nine points, 10 rebounds and three steals. Cunningham added five rebounds and two steals and went 7-for-12 from 3-point range. Senior forward Patrick Russell took three charges.
Pictured above: Seniors Kevin Cunningham and Pete Mangan
Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola