The Ramblers still haven’t played a perfect game, according to Loyola head coach Tom Livatino, but they did enough Friday at Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston to earn a 56-46 win over St. Ignatius and hold on to the Jesuit Cup.
Behind a strong start from junior forward Bennett Kwiecinski, Loyola led 16-4 after the first quarter and 27-10 at the half. Despite going ahead 49-35 with 2 minutes, 32 minutes remaining in the fourth, the Ramblers had to fight off a furious rally by the Wolfpack.
“We’ve put together some really good halves and really good quarters, but we haven’t put together a really good full game,” Livatino said. “I was really excited with our first half. We held them in check. I thought we had an opportunity to extend [the lead in the second half], but credit to them that they battled back.”
It was Loyola’s third consecutive win in the Jesuit Cup. The Ramblers (18-9, 8-5 Catholic Blue) beat the Wolfpack 37-36 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago last season.
“This game means a lot to both schools,” Livatino said. “It really means a lot to our guys, to our alums, to our basketball alums. We’ve gotten 45 letters in 10 years [from former players] that we shared our guys before the game. I’m proud of our guys, especially our seniors.”
Kwiecinski totaled 10 points and six rebounds in the first half and finished with 24 points and eight rebounds. Livatino said the Ramblers need him to produce to be successful, even more so with senior guard and captain Connor Barrett sidelined with an injury.
“Bennett has the capability of doing that offensively,” Livatino said of the 6-foot-8 Division I prospect. “When we beat Marian Catholic, he was dominant. When we beat Covington Catholic, he was dominant. For us to play well, he has to be dominant. His motor always has to be running. He’s had a lot of minutes of greatness.”
Kwiecinski went 4-for-6 on free throws in the final 1:06 to help secure the win.
Livatino saved his highest praise for senior guard Nikko Landon, who scored 16 points to go with nine rebounds.
“He was the player of the game for us,” Livatino said. “He controlled the game. He was aggressive, but he let the game come to him.”
After the Wolfpack closed the gap to eight, 49-41, senior guard and captain Quinn Pemberton made two free throws to extend the lead back to 10 with 1:14 remaining. He also made one more free throw and had a block in the final 42.5 seconds. He finished with eight points, five assists and one charge.
Barrett missed his fifth game in a row with a broken right foot. He was the team’s leading scorer before the injury. The Ramblers are 2-3 without him.
“We think he’s going to be back for the playoffs,” Livatino said. “We are hopeful.”
Loyola travels to Racine, Wisconsin, on Saturday to play Hamilton, of Sussex, Wisconsin, in The Border Battle at Prairie School. Hamilton is headlined by sophomore Patrick Baldwin, the consensus No. 1 player in the Class of 2021.