Rolling Meadows downs Loyola to win regional on home court
Talk about going out in style.
Playing its final home game of the season, the No. 3 seeded Rolling Meadows boys basketball team won a regional on its home floor for the first time in program history on Friday night with a 52-44 triumph over No. 6 seeded Loyola (23-10).
The Mid-Suburban East champs (27-6) advance to Wednesday's semifinal of the Class 4A New Trier sectional where they will meet No. 2 Glenbrook North (27-4) at 7 p.m.
Additionally, Minnesota-bound senior Cameron Christie's game-high 20 points in his final home game placed him second to his brother Max on the Mustangs' all-time scoring list.
Cameron reached nearly 1,900 points on Friday while Max, now paying for the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA, finished with 2,100.
"It's definitely a blessing," Cameron said. "I'm proud to see that all my hard work paid off but the job is not done. I'm hoping we can keep the wins going and maybe I'll be able to catch up to that No. 1 spot.
"And Kato (Mustangs coach Kevin Katovich) told us that since the school opened there's never been a Meadows team to win a regional on this court so it's really a cool moment for us to be part of this. We worked really hard and we were able to pull it out."
"It's phenomenal," said senior Mark Nikolich-Wilson (6 points). "This is a great send off to this court. And I've been playing with Cameron my whole life. It's great to play with a guy like him. Besides basketball, he's a great teammate, too."
Seniors Foster Ogbonna and Tsvet Sotirov each added 9 points for Meadows while sophomores Ian Miletic and Jack Duffer had 4 apiece.
"That's a really good team, with five really good starters," said Loyola coach Tom Livatino, whose team was led junior Miles Noland (15 points) and Jimmy Tarjan (12). "They can all score and they have length. I thought Christie guarded really well, too, and that made it hard for us to score."
"Cameron was being held and grabbed and he just fought through it," Katovich said. "He never complained once. Jack Duffer (4 straight points, one off a steal, in the third quarter) came in and gave us some huge minutes. He did a nice job."
With the game tied 8-8, Sotirov tossed in a 35-foot 3-pointer just before the first-quarter buzzer to spark an 11-2 run from which Loyola never recovered.
The Mustangs led 23-16 at intermission. Loyola got to within 26-23 in the third quarter but Duffer's steal and layup sparked a 6-0 run and to end the quarter with Meadows in front 32-24.
Katovich gave a big assist to his scout team.
"That's who it really started with," he said. "I told the kids in my 21 years here as head coach we've had some great scout teams but these guys really bought into what they were doing and they gave our guys such a good look to get ready for the game. They just played their defense, their sets and they really took pride in it and really helped out our guys tonight."
It is also Meadows' first back-to-back regional crowns since 1990.
"That's just a testament to these kids," Katovich added. "I thought our defense was outstanding tonight. I felt we did a nice job communicating and rebounding and we just kind of matched their physicality."
Credit to Meadows," Livatino said. "Kevin does a great job. We don't get out-rebounded and out-toughed like that. In order for us to win this game, we were clearly going to have to out-tough Rolling Meadows, and I don't think we did that."