Several of the players on Loyola High's basketball team look too young to shave, not to mention their 25-year-old coach. But the Cubs sent a powerful message Thursday night that youth won't prevent them from contending for a Mission League championship.
Sophomore Chris Rucker scored 14 points and sophomore Omar Wilkes added 12 to help Loyola upset visiting Notre Dame, 63-53.
It was a bitter defeat for Notre Dame (16-3, 4-1 in league), which let the Cubs score 10 consecutive points during a two-minute span of the third and fourth quarters to open a 13-point margin. One of Loyola's few seniors, guard Jason Sias, connected on consecutive three-pointers.
"I thought we had a real poor effort," said Coach Rob DiMuro of Notre Dame. "There was no concentration, no poise. We have a senior-dominated team and it shouldn't have happened."
Loyola (13-4, 4-1) kept switching between a 1-3-1 zone and man-to-man defenses, exposing Notre Dame's weakness at point guard.
Starter Ruben Sanchez hardly played. Twice he was benched after committing turnovers. Reserve David Salazar had trouble penetrating against the defense of Wilkes, the son of former UCLA All-American and NBA veteran Jamaal Wilkes.
"Coach kind of uses me like the Lakers use Kobe Bryant," Wilkes said. "He sticks me on the point guard and you pressure them to start their offense from farther out."
Michael Luderer scored 20 points for Notre Dame, but his poor shot selection early hurt the Knights. Cody Pearson had 18 points, but he reverted back to his days as a freshman and sophomore, losing focus when he worried about officials' calls.
Loyola Coach Jim Williamson, a former guard at Loyola Marymount, knows the victory was a breakthrough for a team that starts three sophomores. But the Cubs still have tough road games ahead at Crespi, Chaminade and Notre Dame.
"With a young team, you worry you're going to feel too good," he said.
Wilkes wanted to savor the victory.
"It's great," he said.