Loyola takes off in second half to beat Maine South
Maine South stayed right with top-seeded Loyola through most of the first half Friday night at the Ramblers' Class 4A boys basketball regional championship game.
Loyola pulled away in the final two quarters to score a 47-25 regional title win, but that doesn't diminish the success the Hawks had this season -- especially the seniors on the team, according to coach Tony Lavorato Jr.
"Eighteen wins this year," said Lavorato Jr., "and it has everything to do with this senior group."
Hawks seniors Nick Ostojic, Casey Clark, Danny Locascio and Omar Farrag finished their careers Friday with a stellar effort against the Ramblers.
"This is my 22nd year as a head coach," said Lavorato Jr, "and in all that time I haven't had a group of seniors come as far as these guys have. In order to have a team like we have (with a lot of underclassmen), they basically have to check their pride at the door and be inclusive of the young kids.
"For us to be as tight and cohesive as we are, we owe it all to them."
The first two periods were hotly contested, and although Loyola led all the way, the second of two buckets from junior forward Marko Anderson late in the second quarter saw the Hawks draw within 4 points.
Then Loyola took advantage of three straight Hawks turnovers in the final minute of the half to build a 25-14 lead at intermission.
"We turned it over nine times in the first half and gave them eight points on turnovers," said Lavorato Jr. "That's too much. You can't do that in a possession-by-possession game."
Maine South got a spark when Locascio opened the second half with a 3-pointer, but it would be the only 3 the Hawks would make the entire game -- and the only points they would score in the third quarter.
Loyola then went on a 14-0 run and by the time the Hawks made their next basket (a jumper in traffic from Clark) with 5:35 remaining in the game, the Ramblers led 39-19.
Maine South couldn't get any closer.
"Loyola is a very nice team," said Lavorato Jr., "and the biggest thing is that they take advantage of your weaknesses and mistakes. The difference in the game was getting easy baskets, and they got a lot of easy baskets tonight."
Junior Sean Gallery led the Hawks with 8 points, Anderson and Clark each scored 4, while Ostojic pitched in with 6 rebounds.
And when all was said and done, senior Locascio was able to reflect on what it meant to be a part of the team this season.
"I love every one of these guys," said Locascio of his teammates. "We're probably the closest team in the state, I'd say. We played a lot of tough games this year and we were a battle-tested group.
"Tonight, we stuck with them (Loyola) for sure. We held them to 25 points in the first half and that was our goal coming in. We just didn't get enough shots up and that hurt us."