Loyola’s 37-36 win over St. Ignatius on Friday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago was big for two reasons.

First, it meant the Ramblers (17-3, 4-1 Catholic Blue) held on to the Jesuit Cup for the second year in a row. Second, the victory kept them on pace with league-leading Fenwick.

The Friars are 5-0 in the Catholic Blue after beating St. Rita 60-52 in overtime Friday on the road. DePaul Prep also has one loss in league play, but Loyola owns the tiebreaker over the Rams. The Ramblers and Fenwick play Feb. 16 at Loyola.

“This was huge for us,” Loyola senior guard Kevin Cunningham said. “It’s special to win the Jesuit Cup, and it means a lot for us in the conference.”

Loyola controlled the first half, scoring the last seven points of the second quarter to go into the locker room ahead 26-12. Sophomore forward Bennett Kwiecinski had four of those points, and Cunningham (pictured above) knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

But St. Ignatius (10-8, 0-4) charged back into the game with an 11-0 run during the third quarter to head into the fourth down 30-28.

“The first half was all us, but they capitalized on their chances in the third,” Cunningham said. “That’s going to happen. This kind of game is great experience for us.”

The Ramblers started off strong in the fourth, and Kwiecinski’s basket at the 4:30 mark gave them a 37-28 lead.

Once again, the Wolfpack responded, going on an 8-0 run to get within one, with 1:01 remaining in the fourth. They even had the ball out of bounds with 7.4 seconds on the clock, but their 3-point attempt from the corner missed long. Loyola junior guard Connor Barrett secured the rebound to set off the celebration.

Loyola head coach Tom Livatino said he was happy with how his team played in the first half, but the Ramblers rushed too many shots in the final two quarters.

“Every bad shot we took, they made us pay,” said Livatino, who’s 4-5 in Jesuit Cups in his nine seasons at Loyola.

Kwiecinski, who scored six points, said his first Jesuit Cup was a memorable one.

“It was a lot of fun to play in and cool to see a big of a crowd,” he said.

Cunningham finished with 10 points, five rebounds and one steal. Barrett added 10 points and four rebounds. Senior forward Pete Mangan had seven points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

Loyola hosts De La Salle on Friday in a Catholic Blue game. The Meteors are 2-2 in the league.

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola