Boys Basketball: Loyola holds off St. Rita
By Michael O’Brien firstname.lastname@example.org January 14, 2014 10:06PM
Armani Chaney, of St. Rita, passes against Loyola at St. Rita, Tuesday, January 14th, 2014, in Chicago | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 16, 2014 6:32AM
Cliff Alexander’s dunking ability is the most unstoppable move in high school basketball, but Jack Morrissey’s shooting stroke is the sweetest.
The Loyola senior is the best shooter in the Chicago area, bar none. St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare was well aware of Morrissey’s shooting ability, as well as that of his teammates Kevin Kucera and James Clarke.
So St. Rita’s plan Tuesday night was simple and sensible: take away the three. That’s exactly what the Mustangs did in the first half, but it was a total disaster.
The Ramblers abused St. Rita with backdoor layups and built a 27-point lead. DeCesare and the Mustangs regrouped and used a fullcourt press to get back into the game in the fourth quarter but it was too little too late as the Ramblers held on for a 67-57 Catholic League win.
“The loss is on me,” said DeCesare. “I decided to take away the threes. I thought we did a great job on that in the first half, but then we gave up all the layups. The guys played their hearts out in the second half.”
Loyola led 36-21 at halftime and 47-22 midway through the third quarter. It was a dominant display, one of the best team performances of the season. Then it all fell apart, as St. Rita’s fullcourt press led to multiple Ramblers turnovers.
Armani Chaney’s basket with 44 seconds to play cut Loyola’s lead to 61-57, but Kucera drained 6-of-6 free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the win.
“It was the good, the bad and the ugly,” Loyola coach Tom Livatino said. “It was like a western. Obviously, I didn’t prepare us well enough to handle pressure.”
There were a bevy of coaches on hand to watch St. Rita’s stable of Division I college prospects. Doug Collins was in the crowd with his son, Northwestern coach Chris Collins. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, Illinois assistant Paris Parham and UIC assistant Donnie Kirksey also took in the game.
Not a single one of them was there to see Morrissey, a fact not lost on Livatino.
“Colleges aren’t sure about him now,” Livatino said. “He doesn’t have an AAU game. Morrissey has 262 three-pointers. That’s a lot of threes. We have three guards that might be a smidge overlooked.”
Morrissey finished with 17 points, going 5-of-7 from three-point range. Chris Harris scored 15 and grabbed seven rebounds for the Ramblers (13-2, 5-0 Catholic League). Kucera added 13 points and seven assists and Clarke scored 10.
“We just tried to play our game and not get caught up in who was watching,” Morrissey said. “But, of course, it’s exciting to play in front of Tom Izzo.”
Charles Matthews, the player the college coaches were there to see, scored 17 points. His brother, Dominique Matthews, added 14 for the Mustangs (6-5, 3-2).
“Loyola is a great team,” DeCesare said. “They have seniors that have been playing together for four years. But I think we are the best 6-5 team in the country.”