Loyola annually schedules several quick Howard County teams such as Oakland Mills and Wilde Lake to get itself ready for the rigors of its league season. And traditionally the Dons fare well.
They did again yesterday, beating visiting Wilde Lake, 74-56, in the season opener for both teams.
"We've had some competitive games with Howard County teams over the years," Loyola coach Jerry Savage said. "It's been good for us."
The winning ingredients for Loyola were solid 46 percent (27-for-58) shooting, effective man-to-man and 1-3-1 zone defenses and the all-around play of 6-foot-3 senior forward Tim O'Hara (28 points).
O'Hara's shooting was hot in the first quarter when he scored 15 points as the Dons cruised ahead 20-8. Wilde Lake made only four of 20 shots that quarter.
Wilde Lake pulled within six points, 28-22, midway through the second period. Corey Ellis (eight points) came off the bench and sparked the Wildecats with a three-pointer and another long-range basket.
But Mike O'Neill (15 points) scored back-to-back baskets for Loyola and Jason Vogtman (10 points) converted a fast break to put the Dons ahead 34-22.
Wilde Lake's William Edison made a three-pointer and Sule Carpenter (14 points) hit two free throws to cut Loyola's halftime lead to 34-27.
Loyola broke fast in the third quarter, scoring five of the first six baskets, including a three-pointer by O'Neill. The Dons led 45-29 and then appeared to be in control.
Wilde Lake was missing layups and forcing shots and by the end of the period trailed 52-39.
The Wildecats still had some life, however. Wilde Lake's half-court trap gave Loyola problems early in the fourth quarter.
Loyola turned it over three times during a seven-point Wilde Lake run that cut the lead to 52-46.
The Dons began breaking the trap and scored on two layups to lead 56-46 with 4:21 left.
Wilde Lake was called for a technical foul for substituting a player who wasn't listed in the scorebook. And O'Hara hit both shots.
Then Carpenter made a steal but missed the layup for Wilde Lake, and the Wildecats drew another technical foul.
O'Hara made one of two for a 13-point Loyola lead and the Wildecats were finished for the night.
"A lot of our missed layups were just nervousness," Wilde Lake coach Paul Ellis said. "I'm not unhappy with tonight's game. You learn by playing teams like this. Carpenter [16 rebounds] did a great job on the boards for us. We just couldn't get over the hump because of turnovers. We can and will play better."