A month ago, Loyola's basketball team dropped two important games to St. Frances and Severn and showed no signs of consistency with several miserable shooting performances.
Then the Dons hit one of the toughest stretches of their schedule and, it seems, their stride.
Behind a game-high 24 points from senior forward Carlos Somarriba, No. 18 Loyola (17-9) defeated St. Paul's (17-6), 51-37, yesterday to run its winning streak to four games, including victories over Mount St. Joseph, Towson Catholic and Curley. The Dons shot 51 percent (17-for-33) from the field.
Reggie Gray added 11 points for Loyola, while Justin Singleton scored a team-high 15 points for St. Paul's.
It was the third straight 20-point game for Somarriba, who has provided a much-needed lift for the Dons' offense after spending much of last season as a little-used reserve. He scored five of Loyola's first 12 points in the third quarter, as the Dons' lead grew to 34-19, while his eight first-half points helped Loyola to a 22-13 lead at halftime.
"We've had several scoring droughts over the last couple of games, so this late in the season, I feel I need to step up my game to help the team finish strong," said Somarriba. "When St. Paul's got back in the game, we just calmed down and took control."
The Crusaders climbed back into the contest with a 10-0 run -- forcing three Loyola turnovers in the process -- over the final three minutes of the third quarter to make the score 34-29.
But Somarriba answered St. Paul's challenge. He opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer and then converted two layups in transition to push the Dons' lead back to 45-31.
"Carlos has had a few good games for us lately and he worked hard to improve his skills [last] summer and he's made himself a good player," said Loyola coach Jerry Savage.
In losing to the Dons for the third straight year, the Crusaders' shooting again failed them late in the game. St. Paul's made just three field goals in the fourth period, making just one of its first five and going scoreless over the final 1: 26 of the game. Loyola wasn't much better, turning the ball over on three straight possessions before making four of six free throws to seal the win.
"This was a good test for us and we worked hard to get back into the game," said St. Paul's coach Rick Collins. "We have to play at a different level with the playoffs coming up and at times today we did. but we weren't consistent."
Neither team was particularly sharp over the game's first 10 minutes, which saw three ties and three lead changes. Loyola took the lead for good on a three-pointer by Ryan Heacock with 7: 13 left in the second quarter.
The Dons built on that lead by scoring eight straight points and held the Crusaders to just two field goals over the last 5: 47 of the half to lead by nine at the break.
Pub Date: 2/12/97