The last time that Loyola had won at Cardinal Gibbons, the year was 1981 and Jerry Hunt was 6 years old. Yesterday, the Loyola junior played the key role, helping the No. 10 Dons break that streak with a 65-63 victory over No. 6 Gibbons -- the first Catholic League loss for the Crusaders in eight games this season.
Hunt scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and pulled down seven rebounds, as Loyola (14-6) improved to 5-3 in the league and pulled within two games of the league-leading Crusaders (16-9, 7-1).
"I guess the law of averages was on our side," Loyola coach Jerry Savage said of the long-awaited win. But it was more likely the intensity on the boards in the second half. Loyola rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to outscore Gibbons by 17-4 in the third quarter.
The Dons lost the rebound battle for the game, 33-31, but in the second half when they outscored the Crusaders by 44-34, Loyola out-rebounded the home team by 20-13. In addition to Hunt's board work, senior Steve Kraning grabbed nine rebounds and bunched eight of his 14 points into the wild fourth quarter, in which 57 points were scored by the two teams. Junior Wes Unseld also had seven rebounds and three blocked shots for the Dons.
"At halftime, I told them that we were really getting killed on the boards," said Savage. "We knew we had to play better defense and do the job on the boards."
The Loyola defense shut out Gibbons for the first four minutes of the second half, and Hunt moved the Dons ahead to stay, 32-31, on a fast-break layup with just more than three minutes left in the third quarter.
"I don't know how we had an eight-point lead at halftime," said Gibbons coach Ray Mullis, whose team has been in an outside shooting slump that continued with 4-for-19 inaccuracy in the opening quarter yesterday.
"Somehow we relaxed in the second half. We weren't ready to play," Mullis said. "And it was obvious that Loyola was ready."
With Gibbons hitting only two of 11 in the third quarter, Loyola opened a 38-33 lead after three quarters and built it to 61-53 with a minute left in the game.
But the Crusaders weren't through yet. A three-pointer by Troy Queen, who led Gibbons with 20 points, and a steal by Queen and a layup by Quintin Moody cut the Dons' lead to 61-58 with 56 seconds to play.
But Hunt answered with an offensive rebound and a basket with 25 seconds left, and Kraning added two free throws in the closing seconds to seal the win.
"Our offense spread their defense a little and that gave me more room to work inside," said Hunt, who was 8-for-14 from the field in the second half. "This is a very big win for us, cutting their lead to two games."
"We knew the second half of the season that everybody would be coming after us," said Mullis, whose team swept the first half, including a 63-55 win at Loyola.