Jordan Kwiecinski a key contributor in Ramblers’ run to Class 4A regional championship: Less than one minute into Friday’s 37-34 win over Maine South at Rolling Meadows, junior Jordan Kwiecinski (pictured above) dove onto the floor, grabbed the loose ball and gave the Ramblers possession. While the turnover didn’t result in points, it set the tone for the game.

“It was instinct,” he said. “I wanted to win the game so badly.”

Loyola head coach Tom Livatino said watching the 6-foot-8 Kwiecinski go to the ground chasing a ball was a sign of his development as a player.

“As the season’s gone on, I’ve become one of the stoppers on the team, and it’s something I’ve started taking pride in,” Kwiecinski said. 

His assignment Friday was Maine South senior Fillip Bulatovic, the Hawks’ leading scorer and rebounder. Kwiecinski helped neutralize Bulatovic, who had zero points in the first half and eight for the game. 

On Tuesday, Kwiecinski matched up against Rolling Meadows sophomore Max Christie. One of the top sophomores in the state and the team’s leading scorer, Christie was a non-factor, finishing with 14 points, five coming in the first two quarters. Kwiecinski said junior Matty Mangan also was responsible for slowing down Christie.

Kwiecinski leads Loyola with 124 deflections to go with 28 steals and 20 blocks. He’s averaging 4.6 points and 3.7 rebounds. 

“Jordan has been playing stellar defense,” Livatino said. “He has come around to understanding how to play tough, solid defense.” 

The No. 6-seeded Ramblers (21-12) play No. 7 Schaumburg on Wednesday in the sectional semifinals at Niles North. 

“Winning the regional was awesome,” Kwiecinski said. “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs this season. We didn’t finish the regular season the way we wanted to. But we got a new start in the playoffs, and we are capitalizing on that. We have a lot more games to win.”

Ramblers take on streaking Schaumburg in sectional semifinals: On paper, it was an upset. But No. 7-seeded Schaumburg’s 61-45 win over No. 2 New Trier in the Class 4A regional final at Glenbrook North didn’t surprise Livatino. 

“They were definitely under-seeded,” he said. “They’ve been playing well lately and dismantled New Trier. They are a very good defensive team that plays all man-to-man. They are aggressive and fundamentally sound.”

Since the new year, the Saxons (23-6) have won 11 of 13 games. They are led by seniors Michael Hodges and Heze Trotter. Hodges made all five of his field goals Friday to score 18 points. The 6-7 Trotter is a contributor on both ends of the court, according to Livatino. 

Other Schaumburg players to watch are junior Jared Schoo and Chris Hodges, Livatino said. 

“The biggest thing for us is executing offensively,” he said. “We haven’t played against man defense in a long time. I’m glad we have three days to prepare.”

In the other sectional semifinal, top-seeded Evanston plays No. 5 Glenbrook South on Tuesday. The sectional final is Friday. 

Three of a kind: The Ramblers won their regional title third in a row by beating Maine South. Incidentally, it’s one of a few accomplishments the they have completed three consecutive times. This is the third season of at least 20 wins, the third Jesuit Cup victory in a row and third consecutive tournament title at the Gulfcoast Holiday Hoopfest in Naples, Florida. 

Livatino said former Rambler and Lawrence University basketball player Julian DeGuzman (Class of 2017) pointed that out to him.

“Give him credit because that didn’t occur to me,” Livatino said. “But we’ve embraced it.”

Loyola seniors Julia Martinez and Celia Satter awarded state honors: After leading the Ramblers (24-8) to a Class 4A regional championship, Martinez and Satter each earned recognition by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association. Martinez was named to the all-state second team, and Satter was selected to the third team. 

The St. Louis University-bound Martinez averaged 6.8 points, 7.1 assists, 6.8 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 1.8 deflections. Satter, who will play Richmond, averaged 10.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.2 steals. 

Photo credit: Margo Grogan/Sports Depiction