Loyola played it's final home game of the season on Saturday afternoon at the Gentile Center. It was a going away party of sorts for Andy Polka, Geoff McCammon and Terrance Hill, along with fellow senior Ryan Sterling. Unfortunately, St. Peter's didn't want to participate in the fun of the Sears Bracket Buster. The Peacocks ruined senior night with a 71-67 victory over the Ramblers.
Even in defeat, each of the seniors managed to show the parts of their game that fans have enjoyed over the past few seasons. Polka grabbed 10 boards, McCammon scored a game-high 20 points on 4-7 three-point shooting, and Hill finished with 15 points.
It just wasn't enough as a cold start to the second half left the Ramblers in a 10-point hole with 7:49 remaining in the game and a few miscues down the stretch made the ultimate decision.
"That didn't beat us," Jim Whitesell said about the plays at the end of the game. "It was more the first 12 minutes [of the second half] we just really struggled and we didn't get a lot going offensively. ... We didn't get enough stops then and we didn't play well enough."
Nothing worked for Loyola in the first half as the Ramblers were held to 22 points, but they still had a 1-point lead at the break. McCammon had just three points in the first half. Whitesell was happy with how his team got back and defended, even while adjusting to the tough defense of St. Peter's in the first half.
"At the half that's what I was really happy about," said the Ramblers' head coach. "We weren't scoring, but neither were they."
Late in the second half McCammon finally started to find open looks. Hard screens by Polka and Courtney Stanley helped free the two senior guards for open looks along the perimeter. Loyola as a team shot 7-16 from deep in the second half as it tried to get back into the game.
One of those threes was a special milestone for McCammon. His 76th three of the season set a new single season mark for made threes for a Rambler. It's an impressive achievement and a great note for him to go out.
For Polka, the rebounding maniac, the loss ended a career that included some excellent rebounding and some valuable time lost to injury. Of course the redshirt senior has also taken advantage of the opportunity to get a good education. During halftime of the game Polka was recognized as part of Loyola's academic honor roll with a 4.0 GPA.
"There have been a lot of ups and down in my career," Polka said. "I've enjoyed the time with the guys that played before me and these guys. I've played with Geoff for a long time. I'm just looking forward to hopefully going out on a winning note."
Another positive for Loyola was the play of Chim Kadima. The freshman guard played 13 minutes and gave the Ramblers a boost off the bench. He scored 8 points on 3-5 shooting and also had an assist.
"I thought Chim played real well for us, especially in the first half," Whitesell said.
But the seniors aren't done. There are still two more games remaining. Loyola has to go to Valparaiso and Butler to close out Horizon League play. If the Ramblers win one of those games they still could sneak into the #7 spot in the conference tournament over Green Bay, UIC and Youngstown State. Then there's the conference tournament, where absolutely anything could - and probably will - happen.
"My two years here were great," Hill said. "I wish we could've gotten that win, not just for us, but for all the people that have supported us here every game regardless of how we've been playing and what our record was. But we have to focus. We've got Valpo next and we've got to finish on a winning note."