No. 3 St. Frances improved to 3-0 in the Catholic League, but the Panthers needed to stave off a hectic fourth-quarter rally by No. 18 Loyola to do it.
Leading by 14 points early in the fourth quarter, the Panthers saw that lead shrink to three points with just over a minute to play.
But late baskets by sophomore forwards Charles Beaufort and Mark Karcher provided the 62-55 victory for St. Frances, which improved to 13-1 overall.
"We had that 14-point lead and we just jobbed around and let [Loyola] back into the game," said St. Frances coach William Wells. "We took a lot of bad shots in a crucial part of the game, and Loyola kept its cool."
But in the end it was the inside play of Beaufort and Karcher, who each scored 18 points and combined for 25 rebounds, that kept the Panthers on top in the Catholic League.
For Loyola (9-5 overall, 0-2 in the league) it was a case of poor shooting from the field and, most importantly, from the foul line.
The tough St. Frances defense limited the Dons to 21-for-62 shooting. But the key was at the foul line, where the Dons made just 10 of 22.
"We can't afford to shoot 10 of 22 from the line against a team like this if we expect to win," said Loyola coach Jerry Savage. "St. Frances is very, very quick and the two kids inside [Karcher and Beaufort] are excellent."
Point guard Jason Vogtman led Loyola with 19 points and Mike O'Neill added 16. O'Neill and Matt Neumayer led a 10-2 run late in the final quarter by the Dons.
Loyola had opened a 9-6 lead with some solid outside shooting in the first three minutes, but the Panthers turned up the defensive pressure and started to score methodically inside.
A 6-0 spurt on driving layups by Beaufort and Eric Payton and a short jumper from Jones in just 90 seconds put the Panthers ahead 12-9.
That lead increased to 19-13 after one quarter as Karcher and Keon Chavez came off the bench for St. Frances and helped to expand the lead.
Karcher scored the last six points of the first quarter and finished the half with nine and Chavez made several second-quarter steals, ran the St. Frances offense efficiently and added a three-pointer that moved the home team ahead 31-17 midway in the second quarter.
Loyola, which hit on three of its first five shots from the field, managed only 7-for-28 the rest of the first half.
That lead seemed safe as the Panthers held a 51-39 edge after three quarters. But Loyola, which closed the Panthers' lead to 10 points on five occasions in the second half, was not about to concede.