Towson Catholic coach Mike Daniel said his team is peaking, and the Owls certainly convinced Loyola yesterday.
Sharif Butler scored 23 points as No. 7 Towson Catholic jumped to a 12-1 lead and rolled to its third victory in a week over No. 8 Loyola, a 69-57 decision at Calvert Hall in a playoff for the right to represent the Catholic League at the Alhambra Invitational next week.
Towson Catholic (23-11), winner of six straight, goes to the Alhambra Invitational at Frostburg State University in Cumberland, March 18-20.
Loyola (24-11) will play in the Mid-Atlantic Invitational Tournament at St. Maria Goretti in Hagerstown, March 12-14. The playoff was necessary because Loyola won the regular-season title, and Towson Catholic took the tournament crown.
Towson Catholic topped Loyola, 60-58, last Monday night for the tournament title. Two days later, the Owls beat the Dons, 62-52, for the Maryland Scholastic Association Armstrong Conference A League championship.
Yesterday, Towson Catholic used its quick start to take command. And Butler sparked that run.
Butler made a jumper 34 seconds into the game and followed it with a three-pointer for a 5-0 lead. Richard Rhinehart added a free throw for the Owls before Jerry Hunt (17 points) did the same to get Loyola on the board.
Rhinehart (10 points) then made a layup and James Burrell (11 points) hit a jumper. Konata Springer (12 points) then took a pass from Rhinehart and sank a jumper for the 12-1 lead with 4:37 left in the quarter.
Butler, Rhinehart, Burrell are seniors. Daniel said the work of the seniors -- including Troy Elser -- sparked the team's recent success.
"My seniors have stepped up and made the difference," said Daniel. "I've been harping all year that when my seniors stepped up we could be a very good team."
Butler was the biggest contributor yesterday. He scored 12 in the first quarter as the Owls sprinted to a 21-9 lead. Butler also had some key baskets and free throws in the second half as the Owls fought off a Loyola rally.
"We just play well against them," said Butler. "We were really motivated. At the beginning of the year our main goal was to get to Alhambra."
The early deficit stopped Loyola's chances of going to Alhambra.
"That really killed us," said Loyola coach Jerry Savage, whose team beat Towson Catholic twice this season. "We got ourselves too deep in a hole and couldn't get out."
Loyola tried to rally several times. The Dons cut it to 12 late in the second quarter, but the Owls scored six of the final eight points in the half. Pat Turnage capped the run with a driving layup at the buzzer for a 41-25 halftime lead.
"Basketball is a game of runs," said Daniel. "When you play a good team, whoever has the best run, the longest run and the last run is who wins. That was the story of the Catholic League this season."