Loyola senior Julia Martinez ready for final run: This week is the beginning of the end for one of Loyola’s all-time great athletes. A four-year starter and holder of multiple program records, Martinez (pictured above) and the Ramblers beat Lincoln Park 60-18 in the opener of the Class 4A regional at Loyola on Tuesday. The second seed at Evanston’s sectional, Loyola (23-7) plays Trinity in the regional final Thursday.

“It’s crazy to think it’s already been four years,” said Martinez, who helped the volleyball team capture a Class 4A sectional championship in the fall. “It’s sad that I no longer will be playing for Loyola soon. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished, and how much everybody has supported us throughout the years.”

Since Martinez joined the varsity team, the Ramblers are 91-33 with two Class 4A regional titles. She will graduate as the program’s all-time leader in career assists, career rebounds and assists in a single season. She was selected to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association’s Class 3A/4A all-state first team as a junior.

Martinez’s most memorable moments involve the team. One was last year’s win over Evanston in the regional final at Lane Tech. The other was beating Trinity on its home court two years ago to win a regional title.

“Your mindset has to change in the playoffs, and we showed how determined we were to win and much we wanted it in both of those games,” Martinez said.

Loyola’s season ended last year with a loss to Maine West in the sectional final at Maine East. The Warriors went on to take third place in the state. They are the No. 1 seed at Evanston this season.

On Sunday, Martinez took a road trip to St. Louis University to watch her future team earn a 69-58 win over La Salle. It was her second game this season. A highlight was being in the locker room before the game to listen to Billikens head coach Lisa Stone’s pre-game talk.

“The players call me by my name now and are very welcoming,” Martinez said. “I feel comfortable around the team. It’s cool picturing myself there.”

As excited as she is to play college basketball, Martinez said she’s looking forward to extending her high school career for as long as possible.

“We’ve been working our butts off,” she said. “The coaches have prepared us well, and I believe we are clicking at the right time.”

Ramblers receiving contributions from host of players: Loyola’s win in the playoff opener was an example, at least offensively, of the team’s balance.

Senior Celia Satter finished with a game-high 12 points and was one of 11 players to score. All 12 of Satter’s points came in the first quarter as the Ramblers built a 28-6 lead. Eight Loyola players scored in the opening eight minutes.

For the game, junior Addison Ebeling had 10 points, and sophomore Isabella Ogliore scored nine.

The University of Richmond-bound Satter ended the regular season as the team’s leading scorer at 10.8 points a game. She averaged 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals.

Martinez entered this week averaging 6.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 3.3 steals. Sophomore Summer Parker-Hall (8.2 points, 3.8 rebounds) and Ebeling (6.2 points, 2.4 rebounds) also provide production.

Still time to improve before postseason: The Loyola boys basketball team played its seventh consecutive game Tuesday without one of their best players. Senior guard and captain Connor Barrett broke his right foot following Loyola’s Jan. 19 game against Saint Viator at Evanston. He was the team’s leading scorer at the time of the injury. The Ramblers are 2-5 in his absence after their 56-46 loss to DePaul Prep in Chicago.

“There’s no doubt losing Connor has hurt us,” Loyola head coach Tom Livatino said. “But we’ve been in every one of those games. We’re making so many mistakes, and it’s frustrating.”

Everything is within the team’s control, according to Livatino.

“It’s self-inflicted stuff,” he said. “First of all, we’re not as locked in as we need to be. Focus has been an issue all year. I’m very hopeful these are things are can get corrected.”

After Tuesday’s loss to the Catholic Blue-leading Rams, Loyola (18-11, 8-6) plays Fenwick at home Friday in the last game of the conference schedule. The final game of the regular season is Feb. 19 at home against Senn.

On Thursday, the Ramblers will find out where they are seeded at the Class 4A Niles North Sectional. The pairings will be released Friday. Loyola is 1-3 against sectional opponents.

Jordan Kwiecinski shines on defense: While the 6-foot-8 junior forward isn’t scoring at a high level like his twin brother, Bennett, Jordan is contributing on the end of the court Livatino values the most.

Jordan opened eyes Saturday in a 54-41 loss to Hamilton, of Sussex, Wisconsin, at the Border Battle at Prairie School in Racine. Led by sophomore Patrick Baldwin Jr., — the country’s No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2021, according to 247sports.com — the Chargers are one of the top teams in Wisconsin.

Tasked with guarding the 6-8 Baldwin, Jordan, also a Division I recruit, helped hold him to 10 points. Among Baldwin’s 17 offers, one is from Duke University.

“It’s hard to be a 6-8 defensive stopper, and Jordan’s been excellent at it,” Livatino said. “He did absolutely phenomenal job on Patrick, who will play in the NBA someday. Jordan’s motor was good. He really limited Patrick’s touches, and that was key.”

With Barrett on the bench, Bennett has been asked to step up his offensive production. He’s responded by averaging 17.7 points over his last three games and now is Loyola’s leading scorer. Bennett scored 24 in Friday’s 56-46 win over St. Ignatius at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The Ramblers also have turned to junior Matt Enghauser for points. He scored a team-best 16 in a 53-48 loss to Brother Rice on Feb. 5.

Livatino said it’s possible that sophomore guard Vaughn Pemberton could be available for the playoffs. He suffered a knee injury during the football season.

“He would be a difference-maker for us,” Livatino said. “He’s one of the most talented offensive players on our team.”

But if all goes well, Barrett will be ready for the state tournament, which starts Feb. 25.

“We are hopeful everything will work out,” Livatino said.

Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola