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Oak Park, 01/25/13--Loyola's Kevin Kucera banks in a shot. Fenwick High School hosted Loyola Academy in boys basketball Friday evening. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Loyola’s Richie Wehman III has been waiting for a game like this ever since he was a young boy.
The three-year boys basketball varsity veteran barely paused when asked if Friday’s home game against St. Ignatius will be the biggest of his career.
“Yes,” said Wehman, whose father Rich, a former Loyola player himself, is close friends and fantasy football partners with Wolfpack coach Rich Kehoe. “To be a senior and play in this game is going to be special.”
This season, the Jesuit Cup features two teams fighting for first place in the Catholic North. On an eight-game winning streak, Loyola (15-5) enters the week 6-2 and in second place in the conference standings. The Wolfpack (14-6) comes into the contest alone in first place at 7-1.
Loyola has won eight Catholic League championships in its history.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” said Loyola coach Tom Livatino, who’s never defeated St. Ignatius in his four seasons with the Ramblers. “It’s going to be a great game. It means a lot to our school and the community. These are the games you remember 10 years from now.”
Loyola made this week’s game important by beating Fenwick 52-50 in overtime Friday. The Ramblers, who’ve struggled against the Friars in Oak Park in recent seasons, rallied from a 22-point deficit in the second half for the victory. Senior forward Matt Sullivan, junior guard Jack Morrissey and junior guard James Clarke all made tangible contributions in the comeback.
Morrissey’s sharpshooting got Loyola going, while Clarke connected on two 3-pointers during a 40-second stretch early in the fourth. Sullivan then came up big in the fourth quarter and OT.
“That was definitely one of my best games,” Sullivan said. “I have to keep it going and play like that every game.”
Morrissey went 6-for-10 from long range and finished with a game-best 23 points. Livatino also credited seniors Jack Byrne and Wehman with assisting the win.
“Our seniors’ voices made the difference,” Livatino said. “Any great team is led by the players, not the coach. Jack and Richie told everybody we are not losing this game.”
Wehman called the victory over Fenwick “one of the greatest sporting events of my career.”
Now, the Ramblers have a chance to position themselves for a conference championship. A win over the Wolfpack allows Loyola to control its own destiny. The Ramblers close out the league schedule against Gordon Tech (Feb. 8) and St. Joseph (Feb. 15).
“Our goal all season has been to win the Catholic League,” Wehman said. “Beating Fenwick was another step toward our goal. Friday is going to be a huge game and a great environment.
“We need to go out and get a win in our house.”