A slow start did nothing to deter Loyola from claiming their fourth straight regional championship.
The Ramblers defended and rebounded at a extremely high level to knock off New Trier on their home floor by a score of 47-29 to advance to the sectional round at Maine West.
Despite the one-sided scoreline at the end of the game, it was the home side New Trier who got off to the hot start.
New Trier led by Tinah Hong and Olivia Becker (12 points), got the Trevians off to an 11-3 lead early in the fourth quarter as Loyola had trouble getting shots up and hanging onto the basketball.
But after the nerves settled, Loyola slowly started getting back into the game by getting the ball into the post, limiting their turnovers, and forcing New Trier into tough one and done opportunities.
“There are things that we just didn’t defend well, lost some matchups we talked about but then we settled in,” said Loyola head coach Jeremy Schoenecker. “I think we held them scoreless for a chunk of time in the second and third quarter. That’s the best we looked defensively all year.”
One of the spark plugs for Loyola was Alex Guzzardo. Though she didn’t light up the stat sheet, her energy helped swing the momentum back to the Ramblers favor when things weren’t going their way early.
“That’s what she brings, we lost her and Izzy (Ogliore) for half the season,” said Schoenecker. “She didn’t play a whole lot of games early in the season so we just think she’s an energizer bunny off the bench for us.”
Loyola claimed their first lead of the contest early in the second quarter, and from that point on, it was all Loyola.
Perhaps the biggest turning point of the second quarter Loyola run was Addison Ebeling’s (15 points) three pointer as time was running out in the half.
The senior found herself open in the corner, let a three fly, and started running down the court before the ball even got to the rim.
“I honestly don’t even remember doing that,” joked Ebeling. “It’s always when I’m in this gym I tend to shoot better. So when I let that fly I just went ‘that’s going in.'”
“Yea, she hit the first three of the game, another jumper to settle us in and then she also hit a big one in the third quarter that put us up 16 and that’s what you want from your seniors,” added Schoenecker.
That three pointer gave Loyola a double digit lead which they never relinquished. Foul trouble for Becker and a 7-0 run for Loyola to start the second half all but solidified the win, and the regional championship for the Ramblers.
Next up for Loyola is Maine West. The last time these two teams met was in the 2018 sectional finals where Maine West got the best of Loyola.
It will be a tough test for either team, but the competition level from the regular season should have both teams prepared for one of the best sectionals in the state.
“Honestly, I’ve watched five minutes of film on them all year so it’s going to be a busy weekend,” said Schoenecker. “But our team is hungry for it, they’re not going to shy away from it but obviously they’re a team whose the number one seed and been down state and we look forward to the challenge of playing them on their home court.”
The game will tipoff on Monday evening at 6:30pm at Maine West and will be followed by Maine South vs. the winner of Glenbrook North and Evanston.