No. 8 Cardinal Gibbons used 10-for-11 foul shooting in the final minute to stave off a Loyola rally and capture the 20th Catholic League basketball tournament, 77-69, at Reitz Arena last night.
The Crusaders (24-10) won their fifth Catholic League title and first since 1988, and this may have been the best team effort of them all.
Three Crusaders made the all- tournament team, with Ross Peacock, who scored 18 points and had five assists, earning Most Valuable Player honors. Casey Musick (20 points) and Quintin Moody (18) also were named to the team. The three combined to hit all 10 of their free throws in the final minute, as No. 12 Loyola (20-13) made a late surge behind some three-point heroics by Paul Howard (11 points) and Steve Kraning (15 points).
"We had composure in every game of this tournament," said Peacock, who hit seven of nine from the field. "We played tough defense and moved the ball around on offense until we got the shots that we wanted."
"Peacock really stepped up and buried the stuff for us," Gibbons coach Ray Mullis said. "He ran the offense better in this tournament than he did all year."
Trailing, 33-23, at the half, Loyola cut the Gibbons lead to 47-44 after three quarters on 10-for-14 shooting in the quarter, as Mike Smith (14) and Brad Garey each scored six.
Gibbons expanded the lead to 63-52 with less than three minutes to go, but Loyola cut that to four points on three occasions.
"We beat a very good team," said Mullis, "but we had a great team effort. I don't know if there is a better team in the country size-wise."
In the first quarter, Loyola jumped to a 6-2 lead before Gibbons rallied behind the shooting of Musick. He crammed eight points into the quarter, as the Crusaders built a 17-10 lead on 8-for-14 shooting.
Early in the second quarter, Damon Fleary and Mike Soistman picked up their third personal fouls, giving Loyola an even bigger height advantage inside. The Dons had a terrible time trying to score inside, however, and never got closer than 27-21 in the quarter.
At the other end, Gibbons got a lift from seldom-used senior Richard Harrison and Richard Dent, who earlier in the day had helped the Crusaders to the junior varsity title over St. Frances, and built a 33-23 lead at intermission.
"Gibbons is just a little quicker than we are," said Loyola coach Jerry Savage. "They beat us to the ball a lot, and they beat us all three times we played this season."
Other members of the all-tournament team were Eric Carroll of St. Frances, Pat Young of Mount St. Joseph and Howard of Loyola. Loyola's Smith was given the sportsmanship award.