The Loyola Greyhounds had won only one Beltway Classic game in six starts entering this year's tournament at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Now, they are the top dogs in the area.
The Greyhounds captured their first Beltway title last night by outrunning the Retrievers on their home court, 91-82, and dominating a sprightly paced game.
UMBC (1-3) had upset Towson State in the first round Friday night with a sustained 40 minutes of emotional basketball. But there wasn't enough fire left to contain the Greyhounds, who never trailed after the first two minutes.
Loyola took over on Brian Pendleton's rebound basket at 8-7 and never looked back as tournament Most Valuable Player Kevin Green poured in 22 second-half points and Tracy Bergan safeguarded the lead with four free throws at the end.
"He was phenomenal," coach Tom Schneider said of Green. "He was in that zone all shooters like to find."
Green, Bergan and Michael Reese all made the all-tourney team from Loyola, although Reese did not start last night. He was on the bench initially because he did not return with the team to Loyola Friday night, staying to watch the second half of the Towson-UMBC game.
Joining them as all-tourney were Soni Nixon and Brian Watkins of UMBC and Kevin Booth of Mount St. Mary's.
Green scored 35 in all to pass Mike Morrison and David Gately for the No. 2 position on the Greyhounds' career scoring list with 1,717 points. The Loyola co-captain trails only Jim Lacy, who had 2,199.
The Retrievers made it interesting with a determined drive through the stretch, but could never get closer than four points (four times, the last at 84-80). They did not recover from a 22-8 Loyola run in the last eight minutes of the first half.
"That lapse probably cost us the ball game," said UMBC coach Earl Hawkins. "We had the same emotion, but we have to do a better job of executing at the both ends, particularly rebounding.
"We gave up too many offensive rebounds and they had too many second shots at crucial points. We're a big strong team. No way that should happen."
Reese made a free throw and Bergan hit four in a row to put it away for Loyola, which outlasted Mount St. Mary's, 98-94, in overtime Friday night for its first victory of the season.
The Greyhounds lost in last year's final to Towson State, 62-60, in a bruising battle that ended on Terrance Jacobs' basket with 12 seconds left.
"It was my last chance and I wanted to get this one," said Green, who scored 54 points in two games. "We let last year's title slip away."
The tourney title was the school's first since the 1985-86 Hatter Classic in Deland, Fla.
Guard Skip Saunders, Watkins and Nixon scored 40 of UMBC's 50 second-half points, but it wasn't enough to prevent the school's 19th loss in 28 games with Loyola.
Schneider was pleased with the play of reserves Mark Sparzak, Matt Gabriel and Pendleton, who started in place of Reese.
"This was a boost for our bench," he said. "It gives you confidence too look down there and know you can get help from that many people. Sparzak gave us some great minutes. I don't know if he's ever played that many  in his life."