GAMER: LA 48, MAINE SOUTH 29
Give props to Connor Barrett and Kevin Cunningham.
The two shooters held up their end of the bargain in Loyola Academy’s never-in-doubt 48-29 victory over host Maine South in a Class 4A boys basketball regional championship game on March 2.
Cunningham got the ball rolling by hitting 3-of-4 three-pointers in the opening frame. The senior guard battled foul trouble and ended up with 12 points.
Barrett proved to be the team’s primary scoring source in periods two, three and four. The sharpshooter turned a slow start — missing his first three three-pointers — into a fast finish. He had nine of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter.
But let’s not forget about the supporting cast, starting with John Lynch.
The senior guard, a lockdown cornerback on LA’s football team this past fall, did his part in helping the Ramblers lock up their 24th win of the season.
Lynch was a ball of fire early in the fourth quarter.
In a 55-second span, No. 23 scored on a slightly off-balanced left-handed layup, pulled down a rebound, made a steal, recorded an assist and deflected a pass that caused a turnover.
“All that?” said Lynch, in a postgame interview. “I didn’t realize that I did all that.
“I was too busy,” added Lynch, with a slight smile.
Lynch’s best 55 seconds of the season didn’t go unnoticed — not much does — by LA head coach Tom Livatino.
“That was a huge stretch. A momentum-changing stretch,” said Livatino.
During those 55 seconds, the fourth-seeded Ramblers stretched their lead from 10 points to 14 points.
And on this particular night, it was fairly unlikely that the fifth-seeded Hawks (22-8) would be able to overcome a 36-22 disadvantage with just over five minutes left in regulation.
Game, set, rematch?
The Ramblers (24-6) will meet Evanston (23-5) in the sectional semifinal game at Maine East on March 6. LA’s record against the sectional’s top seed: 0-1.
Lynch, who didn’t start, was just happy to contribute on Friday night.
“I’m not looking to do a lot of scoring,” he said. “I’m just trying to do the little things. The intangible stuff.”
Lynch, who had 52 tackles and three interceptions as a starting cornerback for coach John Holecek’s football team, brings a defensive mentality to the court.
“Same role, same job that I had for our football team,” said Lynch.
“Defense,” he added. “Reveals you as a man.”
LA’s stifling defense was something of a revelation on this night.
Maine South, known as a very good basketball team, could muster only six points in the first half.
“We had a game just like this one against St. Patrick, when we held them to 11 points,” said Lynch, referring to a 37-11 road victory on Jan. 30.
“Defense travels,” said Livatino. “It goes on the road with you.”
And shooters … shoot.
Despite those early misses, Barrett never got gun shy.
“Keep shooting. That’s my mindset,” said the LA junior, who also had four rebounds, two assists and three steals. “Coach says, ‘You’ve got the green light. You’ve got the green light.’
“Just keep shooting,” Barrett reiterated. “That’s what I’ve been told my whole life.”
Barrett and Cunningham have shared the “offensive” spotlight all season.
Cunningham, who announced last month that he will continue his playing career at the University of St. Thomas, simply lit it up in the opening frame. The form on his three threes was picture perfect.
“Kevin set the tone early,” said Barrett. “I just bounced off him.”