Loyola and St. Ignatius christened the new Wintrust Arena in style on Friday.
The first high school game at the new arena, the annual Jesuit Cup rivalry game between the Ramblers and the Wolfpack, came down to the last shot.
St. Ignatius battled back from a 14-point halftime deficit and had a chance to win the game at the buzzer but sophomore Daniel Florey’s shot rimmed out and No. 17 Loyola escaped with a 37-36 win on Friday.
“If it went in it would have been really devastating,” Loyola senior Kevin Cunningham said. “This game is bigger than us, it is the two schools and a long history. It’s circled on the calendar each year. Playing at Wintrust made it even more special this year. This game definitely means a lot in multiple ways.”
Cunningham led the Ramblers (17-3, 4-1 Catholic League Blue) with 10 points and five rebounds. He drained a step-back three-pointer with a defender in his face at the halftime buzzer, it was the game’s prettiest moment.
Junior Connor Barrett also scored 10 for Loyola. Both Barrett and Cunningham were held scoreless in the second half. The Ramblers managed just 11 points in the second half. St. Ignatius closed the third quarter with a 14-2 burst to get back into the game.
“[St. Ignatius] pressured us in the beginning of the second half and we couldn’t get into a rhythm,” Loyola sophomore Bennett Kwiecinski said. “We weren’t making shots and we couldn’t get [Cunningham and Barrett] open and get them the ball, they were denying them really well.”
Senior Thomas Stoodt led the Wolfpack (10-8, 0-4) with 18 points and six rebounds. He shot 6 for 10 from three-point range.
“Credit to [St. Ignatius], they made a nice run,” Loyola coach Tom Livatino said. “We took some shots that were probably out of character for us. They answered every bad shot we took and made us pay.”
Christian Davis, one of St. Ignatius’ best offensive threats, has been working his way back from a broken foot. The junior scored five points off the bench. Dariusz Muta, a 6-8 senior, had seven points and four rebounds for the Wolfpack.
St. Ignatius coach Matt Monroe said he’s only really had his full team available for four games this season.
“We were comfortable with any of the five guys on the court taking the shot at the end,” Monroe said. “We got a great shot from a really good shooter. Probably nine times out of ten it goes in.”
Loyola’s twin 6-7 sophomores, Bennett and Jordan Kwiecinski, already have offers from DePaul. Bennett had six points and five rebounds.
“That did make it cool to get a chance to play here,” Bennett Kwiecinski said. “It was running through my mind.”
The game was played with the college three-point line, the court at Wintrust did not have the high school line. The Ramblers put the college line down on their court in practice this week.
“I don’t think it really bothered us,” Cunningham said. “Sometimes when you see two it does though.”