Down by double digits several times, Los Angeles Loyola stubbornly refused to let unbeaten Etiwanda pull away. And when the fourth quarter came Saturday night, the Cubs hung around long enough to overtake the Eagles and end their 21-game winning streak, 70-64, in the Fairfax State Preview Classic.
"This is a huge win for us," said Loyola's Julian Harrell, who scored 18 points and contributed several clutch free throws in the fourth quarter. "We lost to Harvard-Westlake a couple weeks ago. We made it a goal to try to finish off the season undefeated, and we knew Etiwanda was a big step."
Loyola (17-5) trailed by eight points going into the fourth quarter but made 12 of 15 free throws. Etiwanda (21-1) , ranked No. 2 in the Southland by The Times, suddenly went cold after Loyola switched to a zone defense. Byron Wesley finished with 30 points but only four points came in the final quarter.
"Free-throw shooting comes down to will and toughness," Loyola Coach Jamal Adams said. "When the game was on the line, they locked in and focused and knocked down free throws, and it really allowed us to come back and take the lead."
Justin Childress, who scored 15 points, made six consecutive free throws in the final two minutes.
Childress' two free throws with 1:50 left tied the score at 61-61. Wesley made a free throw to put Etiwanda on top, 62-61, with 1:18 left. After that, it was the Cubs making their free throws and the Eagles making uncharacteristic turnovers.
For the first three quarters, the USC-bound Wesley, a 6-foot-5 senior, was a man playing among boys. Loyola had no answer for him. He dominated inside. But the Cubs' competitiveness kept them within striking distance. They got a boost from 6-6 reserve Jack Payton, who had four baskets and provided badly needed support in the paint.
What a week it was for Loyola, which defeated Encino Crespi, Mission Hills Alemany and West Hills Chaminade in Mission League games before taking down Etiwanda.
And Loyola gets a rematch at home against Harvard-Westlake on Friday.