Though No. 15 Loyola had used its special inbounds play only a few times all season, it worked to perfection last night in the closing seconds against host and No. 9 Mount St. Joseph.
With five seconds left, Loyola forward Dan Donovan came cross-court through a double screen to receive Paul Howard's inbounds pass and score the easy layup, giving the Dons a 68-66 win in a Catholic League game.
"The play worked perfectly," said Howard. "Dan came from the corner past a double screen in the paint. I saw him standing there all alone and got him the ball."
Said Loyola coach Jerry Savage: "We've only run it a few times, but we've scored a couple layups off it. We figured that we needed a quick hitter."
The win brought the Dons (17-12, 9-4) to within a game of the second-place Gaels (18-9, 9-3) in the league.
Midway through the third quarter, however, St. Joe appeared to be a winner.
The Gaels went up, 47-34, on Darrin Jones' (game-high 27 points) layup with 4 minutes, 1 second to play in the third, but when Loyola started playing the 2-3 matchup zone shortly after, the Gaels began to struggle.
A three-pointer by Steve Kraning with 6:40 left in the game gave Loyola a 53-52 lead -- its first since leading 20-19 early in the second quarter.
"That little change in defense seemed to bother [Mount St. Joe] a lot," said Savage. "Early on, we were having trouble stopping Jones and [Patrick] Young. They were killing us. When we switched to the 2-3 matchup, though, it really changed their rhythm."
The game was tied three times in the final 2:01 before Chad Berman hit a three-pointer with 22 seconds left to give Loyola a 66-65 lead. Young then tied the game on a free throw with 11 seconds remaining.
Five players, led by Howard (15 points) scored in double figures for the Dons.
St. Joe scored 10 of the game's first 13 points as Jones and Ronald Isaacs hit back-to-back shots midway through the quarter.
But the Dons pulled even when Mike Smith hit a three-pointer from the top of the key with 28 seconds left in the quarter to tie the game at 15.
The second quarter was all St. Joe. With 2:50 left before the half, and the Gaels leading 28-24, Jones stole a Dons pass and drove half the court for a layup. He repeated his feat 12 seconds later to put Mount St. Joe on top, 32-24. The Gaels were 10-for-18 from the field during the period to lead, 36-28, by halftime.