1/10/13. Wilmette. Loyola's Mark Dowdle (bottom) fights for a loose ball with Mt. Carmel's Montana Byrd. Loyola defeated Mt. Carmel 65-55 in boys basketball Friday evening. | Tracy Allen/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 13, 2014 6:45AM
Loyola’s James Clarke put on an offensive show Friday night, scoring a career-high 28 points.
But it was what the senior guard did on the other end that impressed his coach the most.
Clarke’s charge on Mount Carmel’s David Nichols with less than three minutes to go in the game was as big as any basket he scored in the Ramblers’ 65-55 win in Wilmette.
“That was huge,” Loyola coach Tom Livatino said. “For me, that was the most important play of the game for him.”
Before the charge, Nichols had scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and was keeping the Caravan within striking distance. But he made only one free throw the rest of the way to finish with 28 points.
“Coach had told me to get into the gaps,” Clarke said. “I just got into the lane and took it. It was a big momentum-changer.”
Clarke scored 18 points in the first half and 10 in the fourth quarter. He finished 5-of-8 on three-pointers as the Ramblers (12-2, 5-0 Catholic League North) went 10-of-20 as a team.
“I came out confident,” said Clarke, who started the game’s scoring with a three-pointer. “All week I had been hitting shots in practice, so I felt confident. It was nice to see that first one go through the hoop. That got me pumped up.”
Loyola, the defending conference champion, took its first lead late in the first quarter on Jack Morrissey’s three-pointer, one of four he knocked down in the game, and the Ramblers never again played from behind.
Mount Carmel (10-6, 3-2) got to within 37-33 toward the end of the third quarter on Nichols’ basket, but Morrissey made two three-pointers to push Loyola’s lead to 10 by the start of the fourth.
Nichols then single-handedly gave the Caravan a chance to win, scoring back-to-back baskets to leave the score 56-49 with 3:11 remaining. Less than a minute later, Nichols drove the lane and found a wide-open teammate on the block, but Clarke was there to take the charge.
“Coach loves charges,” Clarke said. “We really take pride in our defense, and that was what we do for 90 percent of our practices. But we still have some things to fix if we want to be a great team.”