After missing the last nine games of the regular season with a broken right foot, senior Connor Barrett came back in a big way Tuesday by connecting on all five of his 3-point attempts and scoring 15 points in Loyola’s 63-43 win over Rolling Meadows in the Class 4A regional semifinals at Rolling Meadows.
A captain and all-Catholic Blue selection, Barrett hit two 3s in the first quarter, including one at the buzzer, to help send the Ramblers (20-12) to the regional final Friday. Loyola, the No. 6 seed at the Niles North Sectional, plays No. 3-seeded Maine South (23-9).
“I felt all right,” he said. “It was good to get back out there with my teammates.”
Out since the team’s Jan. 19 game against Saint Viator at Evanston, Barrett described making the first shot he tried as “a sigh of relief.”
“It was a welcome back,” he said.
The Ramblers, who were 3-6 with him on the bench, missed more than Barrett’s sharp-shooting, according to Loyola head coach Tom Livatino said.
“He’s our best player, best leader, best shooter, best defender, best rebounder,” Livatino said. “We struggled without him. It was a big boost to us having him back.”
Another senior, Nikko Landon, sparked the Ramblers right before halftime. He scored eight of his 15 points and had two of his three steals in the final 3 minutes, 30 seconds of the second quarter, leading Loyola into the locker room with a 32-19 lead over the 11th-seeded Mustangs (15-12).
The Ramblers upped their advantage to 43-23 by the 3:01 mark of the third quarter and went into the fourth up 48-25.
In addition to his points and steals, Landon added four assists. Junior Bennett Kwiecinski contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Junior Matty Enghauser totaled six points and five rebounds and took one charge. Senior Quinn Pemberton pitched in three points, six rebounds and four assists.
Juniors Jordan Kwiecinski and Matty Mangan earned praise from Livatino for their defense on Rolling Meadows guard Max Christie. One of the best sophomores in the state, the 6-foot-6 Christie managed five points in the first half and finished with 14.
“The plan was simple, but their effort was really, really good,” Livatino said.
After reaching 20 wins for the third consecutive season, Loyola is looking for its third regional title in a row. The Ramblers beat the Hawks in last year’s regional final.
“We have a great challenge ahead of us,” Barrett said. “I’m glad I have two full days to get prepared.”