It took over four quarters for Loyola's James Clarke to find his rhythm. But when the Ramblers junior did, he helped deliver his team to a 54-51 overtime victory over Deerfield in the fifth-place game at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic on Saturday.
"I was kind of struggling through most of the game," said Clarke, who scored Loyola's first 5 points in overtime and blocked a 3-point shot at the buzzer. "Coach told me to stay aggressive and he was running plays though me. It gave me the confidence that I needed."
Loyola (9-5) appeared to be in command late in the third quarter when the Ramblers built a 41-32 advantage. Deerfied (7-7) then rallied behind the play of Michael Alfieri (21 points), who scored 6 consecutive points as the Warriors closed to 41-38 with 6:27 to play.
Loyola led 45-38 with 4:48 left when Deerfield went on a 7-0 to tie the game at 45 with 3:47 left. Loyola appeared to have the game in hand when Jack Morrissey, who came into the game with a 19 point average in the tournament, scored his only points of the game on a driving layup with 1:35 left in regulation.
Deerfield tied it with 56 seconds left on a pair of free throws by Eric Porter. Loyola had two chances to win it the closing seconds, but Clarke missed a three and Matt Sullivan failed on the putback at the buzzer.
Clarke (9 points) took over in overtime, hitting a scooping layup and then following up with a 3 to put the Ramblers up 52-48 with 1:49 left. A three by Jack Gurvey (9 points) made it 52-51 with 35.5 seconds left. Sullivan (10 points) then nailed 2 free throws with 24.2 seconds left and Clarke iced it by blocking Samuel Kuznetsky's 3-pointer with 1 second left.
"It was a good win," Loyola coach Tom Livatino said. "I didn't think we played well. But I did think that our play in overtime was very good."
Kevin Kucera led Loyola with 13 points on 4 three-pointers while Chris Sullivan chipped in 10 points.