In a game that matched two of the best and biggest players in the Del Rey League--Mike Boken of Loyola High and John Perak of Notre Dame--it was Boken and Loyola who managed to win, 64-55, at Notre Dame on Thursday night.
Before the game, Notre Dame Coach Matt Vickers downplayed the importance of the match-up between the centers.
"I don't think the two big guys will make much difference," Vickers said. "It'll be what the supporting players do that makes the difference."
Afterward, Vickers admitted that Boken, a 6-10 senior who has already signed to play at the University of Montana, led the Cubs' win.
"We couldn't score effectively inside. We got the ball inside, but in the first half we made only 35% of those shots."
Of course, the reason the Knights were missing inside was because Boken was cramming their shots down their throats.
The game was less than a minute old when Boken introduced himself to Notre Dame by first scoring on an easy layup and then, on the Knight's second trip up the court, Boken swatted 5-11 guard Scott Brewster and his shot to the floor.
That clearly caught the attention of Notre Dame. As the half went on, Notre Dame players fired up bricks even when wide-open inside. The Knights had one eye on the basket, the other on Boken.
Early in the game, it became obvious that Perak (6-6, 220) was frustrated. In the closing minutes of the first period, Perak tried to score from under the basket. Boken blocked the shot. After grabbing the ball, Perak went up again. Boken blocked his shot again.
Said Boken: "Before the game, coach built Perak up like he was a god. In the game, I thought I held up pretty well."
"The difference between the two," Vickers said, "is that Perak is a football player playing basketball, and Boken is just a great basketball player. He's a heckuva player--a lot better than he was last year."
The match-up wasn't completely one-sided. As the game progressed, Perak, a senior, put more pressure on Boken by repeatedly going inside on the center.
Perak started scoring and Boken started fouling.
Early in the third quarter, Perak went strong to the hoop, scored and was fouled by Boken. The play lifted the Knights to within five points.
The Cubs answered when Boken took a pass on the right side of the basket, put the ball on the floor driving left and scooped a pass to forward Steve Keller, who kissed the ball off the glass.
But Perak came back by working Boken on the left baseline. He went over Boken for two.
With just over two minutes left in the third, Perak drove straight at Boken. He scored and was fouled. It was the center's fourth personal and he left the game.
But the Cubs got help from guard Mark Tilson. With 15 seconds left in the period, Tilson stole a Knight pass and his basket put the Cubs ahead, 49-41, going into the fourth period.
The Knights managed to draw to within four with four minutes left, but Loyola upped its lead when reserve Biardo Abunza converted two free throws and Mark Caveness scored on a fast break. That made it 55-47.
Boken returned at the 2:56 mark and promptly made a layup. Notre Dame wasn't able to close the gap.
Perak finished with 15 points. Boken had 14, Tilson 23.
"We couldn't stop Perak," said Loyola Coach Bill Thomason, "but we made him work for everything he got. When we switched to a match-up zone from the man defense, that really shut them down.
LOYOLA--Pilson 23; Boken 14; Almedia 8; Caveness 8; Tolliver 4; Abunza 2.
NOTRE DAME--Perak 15 and 8 rebounds; Brewster 12; Oppenheimer 12; Heicke 9 and 9 rebounds; Schmeiderer 6; Horosny 1.