Familiar foes: Loyola will play Evanston for the third consecutive year in the postseason when the two teams meet Friday in the Class 4A sectional final at Niles North.
The No. 6-seeded Ramblers (22-12) beat No. 7 Schaumburg, and the top-seeded Wildkits (29-4) defeated No. 5 Glenbrook South to become two of final 16 teams remaining.
Winners of 11 in a row, the Wildkits have ended the Ramblers’ season the last two years and own a three-game winning streak in the rivalry after their 46-31 win Jan. 29 at Loyola.
After beating Loyola last year in the sectional semifinals at Maine East, Evanston went on to take third in the state. Four of the team’s starters are back as well as another player who saw significant minutes off the bench.
Seniors Ryan Bost, Lance Jones, Jaheim Holden and sophomore Blake Peters all were major contributors last season, and sophomore Jaylin Gibson gained valuable experience as part of the rotation.
Friday’s winner advances to Tuesday’s supersectional at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates against either Stevenson or Waukegan.
Total team effort: Sharp-shooting and suffocating defense Wednesday steered Loyola back to a sectional final for the first time since 2014.
In their 44-29 win over Schaumburg, the Ramblers went 15-for-31 from the field, including 6-for-13 from 3-point range, and relied on a defense that strangled the Saxons by blocking seven shots and making four steals. Schaumburg went 4-for-22 on 3s.
“We had to stop their drives to the basket,” Loyola senior Connor Barrett told the Daily Herald. “We had to own the paint. In the latter part of the season, that is what has made us successful.”
After missing the final nine games of the regular season with a broken right foot, Barrett has been an offensive force in the playoffs. He’s led the team in scoring in two of the games and is averaging 13.3 points. More importantly, he’s been efficient, shooting 11-for-18 on 3s and 12-for-19 from the field.
House divided: It’s a family reunion every time Loyola plays Evanston. Ramblers head coach Tom Livatino and his younger brother, Wildkits athletic director Chris Livatino, both graduated from Evanston.