Leo took the floor for its home opener on Wednesday, Dec. 4 intent on erasing the memory of a disappointing trip to the Quincy Thanksgiving Tournament. The Lions lost two of their three games at Quincy, playing without senior standout Kendale Anderson, who was away from the team for personal reasons.
With Anderson back in the fold, the hosts had their way with Loyola Academy for three quarters in the Catholic League crossover game. But things unraveled at both ends of the floor in the fourth, and the Ramblers (5-0) strutted out of the Lions Den with a 49-39 victory.
“We played our game and controlled the tempo in the first three quarters,” Leo coach Jamal Thompson said. “In the fourth, we didn’t.”
While the long, rangy Kwiecinski twins—6-foot-8 Jordan and 6-foot-8 Bennett—kept the Lions from getting anything going at the rim, Loyola guards Vaughn Pemberton and Matt Enghauser attacked the basket with impunity at the other end, fueling a 12-0 Ramblers run that decided the game. The Lions endured 11 straight empty possessions while being outscored 21-6 in the fourth quarter, missing eight shots and turning the ball over three times.
Leo had 12 turnovers for the game, a fatal flaw against a Loyola team that combines patient, ball-control offense with active, in-your-face defense to limit an opponent’s possessions. The Ramblers also shot 26 free throws, converting 20, while the Lions were a mere 3-for-6 from the foul line. Such an advantage is an anomaly for a road team, but it speaks to the manner in which the game was played: Loyola’s constant motion creating driving lanes, while Leo did too much ineffectual dribbling while standing around on the perimeter.
Bennett Kwiecinski had seven of his game-high 12 points in the fourth quarter, along with nine rebounds and three blocks. Pemberton, a star running back for the Loyola football team, scored all nine of his points in the second half. Kevin Drumgoole and Terrance Ford led the Lions with 10 points apiece, while Anderson managed nine after taking the floor in the second quarter to do battle inside with the Kwiecinskis, who had him outnumbered.
Leo, having lost three straight games for the first time in four years, has no time to feel sorry for itself. The Lions must regroup for a trip to Westchester and their CCL White Division opener against St. Joe’s on Friday, Dec. 6.