Just blame it on the schedule-makers.
Nah, not really.
Playing in big games and going up against highly touted foes has been the norm of late for Loyola Academy.
And LA head coach Tom Livatino wouldn’t want any other way.
The Ramblers went for the trifecta on Jan. 31, when they entertained Fenwick.
The host squad, which had a 10-game win streak on the line after beating St. Ignatius and St. Patrick last weekend, came up short against the mighty Friars 46-37.
“It’s been a meat grinder of a schedule,” said Livatino. “We’ve had a tough stretch of games. Which is great for us.”
With the win, the Friars, who are guided by former New Trier head coach Rick Malnati, improved to 17-4 on the season. They locked up first place in the North Division of the Chicago Catholic League with an 8-0 record.
“There’s no shame in losing to Fenwick,” Livatino said. “They have a great coach, and they are as good a team that we’ve seen all year.
“They have to be one of the favorites to win the Class 3A [state title],” he added.
Fenwick’s four losses were against four powerhouses: Simeon, Benet Academy, Uplift and Whitney Young.
Still, the game figured to be an interesting matchup considering the way LA has been playing in the second half of the season. The Ramblers (15-6, 6-2) claimed a 47-36 win over St. Ignatius (16-4) for the Jesuit Cup on Jan. 27, and then they earned a 69-60 victory over St. Patrick (18-4) in the War on the Shore at Evanston on Jan. 28.
“We’re disappointed but not angry [with the loss to Fenwick],” said Livatino. “Defensively, we played well enough to win. We just couldn’t put the ball in the basket.”
After falling behind 30-17 at halftime, the Ramblers played their best stretch during the first six minutes of the third quarter. They cut Fenwick’s lead to four points, 35-31, on two free throws by Ramar Evans — only to allow the Friars to close out the frame with a five-point run, including a three-pointer at the buzzer by AJ Nixon.
The opening three-plus minutes of the fourth quarter was a tough watch — no points scored by either team to go along with some sloppy turnovers —until LA senior center Jordan DeGuzman converted a three-point play.
Fenwick didn’t exactly shine down the stretch. The Friars went 1-for-7 from the foul line in the final 4:10 of the game.
The Ramblers, on the other hand, didn’t help themselves by going 3-for-16 from three-point land.
Loyola Game Ball: Julian DeGuzman
Fenwick Game Ball: DJ Steward
Player of the Game: Steward
LA Stat Leaders: Ramar Evans (13 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists), DeGuzman (11 points, 3 rebounds)
Fenwick Stat Leaders: DJ Steward (17 points), Jamal Nixon (13 points)
Notable: Steward, just a freshman, is a fine shooter. He opened the game with a pair of three-pointers and outscored LA 10-7 in the first quarter. He also closed out the third quarter with a long bomb. … Guard Jacob Keller, who had been sidelined with an injury, didn’t start but entered the game midway through the first quarter and gave Fenwick a lift. … LA and Fenwick could meet again in the Chicago Catholic League tournament which starts on Feb. 11.