Players-only meeting behind streak
Loyola's Richie Wehman drives the lane during their regional final against Niles North in Wilmette March 1, 2013. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 8, 2013 7:03AM
WILMETTE — According to multiple Loyola boys basketball players, the turning point in the 2012-13 season was a players-only team meeting held in late December.
The Ramblers were 7-5 at the time and still trying to find themselves after facing some adversity, which included losing senior Peter Pujals for the entire season because of an injury.
After the meeting — and perhaps because of it — Loyola went on a 15-game winning streak, capturing the Chicago Catholic League North title in the process. The run, and the season, came to an end Friday when the No. 5-seeded Ramblers (22-6) lost 68-57 to No. 4 Niles North in the Class 4A Loyola Regional final.
“We always had confidence in ourselves and always knew what we could do. We had faced some adversity and we really didn’t know who we were,” junior sharpshooter Jack Morrissey recalled. “We had the team meeting and really just went in and said, ‘This is what we’re going to do and this is how we’re going to do it.’ We went over what we were doing wrong and who was going to step up. We focused a lot on details. I think that was a big turning point.”
Fellow junior James Clarke said: “(In the meeting) we told each other that we had to pick our heads up, that we were better than how we were playing. We knew we could be a top-25 team, but we had to believe in each other.”
Though Loyola ultimately was done in by Niles North star Malachi Nix’s 39-point effort on Friday, the Ramblers’ future is bright.
Morrissey and Clarke, the team’s top two scorers are scheduled to return, as is starting point guard Kevin Kucera, also a junior. Sophomore Griffin Boehm and junior Chris Sullivan also played important minutes in the regional final defeat.
“(Loyola) is going to be an outstanding team ... they are an outstanding team right now,” Niles North coach Glenn Olson said after the regional final. “I can’t imagine too many teams in this area, if any, that bring back the amount of talent, experience and toughness that Loyola has. Loyola is a great team.”
Loyola coach Tom Livatino said one of the keys to next season will be the team’s ability to replace the leadership of departing seniors like Richie Wehman III, Matthew Sullivan, Jack Byrne and Austin Morton.
“Statistically, the strength of our team is our juniors and one sophomore,” Livatino said. “But from a chemistry and leadership standpoint, our seniors were absolutely irreplaceable. The challenge to our team is how will our juniors and sophomores fill that void. I have a lot of confidence in them. They have a tremendous amount of character and have been led by great seniors.”