By: Luke Drase
Coming into Tuesday’s contest against Loyola, Mother McAuley was playing their best basketball of the season, boasting wins over three top-20 teams in a single week.
The No. 9 ranked Mighty Macs (15-6, 2-2) looked to be well on their way to a fourth straight win over a ranked opponent, but No. 14 Loyola quickly erased a six point halftime deficit en route to a 41-36 win to improve their record to 17-4 and 3-1 in the GCAC.
“We did a much better job at communicating in the second half,” said Loyola coach Jeremy Schoenecker. “With the way they run their offense, we got confused a few times on the screen in the first half but again, I thought we did a much better job in the second half.”
Like so many times before, Mother McAuley started the game with their high ball pressure defense that has frustrated many teams throughout the season.
Loyola was not immune to the Mighty Macs defense early on as they coughed up the ball their fair share of times, while McAuley had early success on the dribble drive through junior forward Grace Hynes.
Even with Hynes’ nine first half points, Loyola always remained within striking distance by keeping Tara O’Malley (nine points) in check for most of the night.
“I wish this was the last time we see Tara. She’s just a heck of a player and when she gets going she’s tough to stop.” said Schoenecker. “We ran some different girls at her and switched on screens, but she still had some open looks which on other nights she knocks down, which we were kind of fortunate with tonight.”
Loyola’s offense settled in midway through the second quarter as the Ramblers started shooting the three ball with pinpoint accuracy.
Despite Loyola’s improved offensive output, they still trailed by six points at halftime, but the deficit didn’t remain for very long.
Loyola tied the game up just three minutes into the third quarter, as Julia Martinez (12 points eight rebounds) and the rest of the Ramblers did a much better job taking care of the basketball and getting to the rim.
The Ramblers also got extremely solid minutes from freshman Isabella Ogilore, who finished the night with six points and five rebounds even while playing three quarters in the Sophomore game beforehand.
“Since I’ve seen her play, I sit there and I’m in awe because she can play a lot of minutes and after the games she doesn’t even look like she’s tired,” said Schoenecker. “She has a tremendous motor and her physicality and toughness is something we definitely needed on our varsity team.”
After taking the lead late in the third quarter Loyola did well to maintain, and even extend their lead to as many as six, even when McAuley threw everything they had at them on both ends of the floor.
Despite enduring constant pressure, Loyola never wavered down the stretch as they only turned the ball over once over the final four minutes of the game, while holding McAuley to just 12 second half points to secure the 41-36 win.
While Mother McAuley will look to get back on track with a non-conference game against Jones, next up for Loyola is their Jesuit Cup game against longtime rival St. Ignatius at DePaul University’s Wintrust Arena.
Schoenecker said: “It’s something that we’re looking forward to. The Jesuit Cup means a lot to both schools and a lot of the kids from the area know each other so it will be one of those friendly rivalry battles at such a great venue.”