By: John Nee '93
Coach Gary DeCesare’s young squad travelled to Wilmette on Tuesday, Feb. 7 for an unusual 5:00 p.m. start versus the Ramblers. Both teams were using this non-conference matchup to prepare for the upcoming Chicago Catholic League tournament, which will start this weekend. The result was another huge road win for St. Rita versus a ranked opponent as the Mustangs hung on for an exciting 50-49 win over #24 Loyola.
The Ramblers came into Tuesday night’s contest as one of the hottest teams in the state, having won 11 of their previous 12 games including a huge win over #10 St. Patrick last week in Evanston at “The War on the Shore” shootout.
The young Mustangs kept the game close throughout versus the veteran Rambler squad as neither team lead by more than four in the first half. St. Rita began to take control of the action in the third quarter as they took a 44-39 lead heading into the fourth.
Lead by junior point guard Jordan Matthews (14 points.) and senior sharp-shooter Paul Kingsley (13 points, 3-8 three-point range), the Mustangs extended to their largest lead of the game 49-42 with just under five minutes to play. However, a huge Rambler three-pointer cut the deficit to four with just over four minutes to play, setting the stage for a frantic finish.
The Mustangs did not record a field goal in the final five minutes in the fourth quarter, but they strung together just enough stops down the stretch to hold onto the 50-49 victory.
According to DeCesare defense was the key to the win. “We guarded down the stretch and hopefully we can get them to carry it over the rest of the season,” said DeCesare.
The Mustangs also received great contributions off the bench from sophomore Stedmon Ihejirika (7 points, 7 rebounds) and junior Landen Gladney (4 points, 7 rebounds). For the game, St. Rita out-rebounded Loyola 30-15.
After the game both teams joined with the residents from Misericordia for a pizza party in the balcony of the Loyola gym.
The Mustangs (12-9) will now move onto the CCL tournament where they will open at St. Joseph on Saturday versus the host Chargers. Tip-off is 5:30 p.m.