For three quarters yesterday, the John Carroll boys basketball team executed its offense precisely and had its way on defense against visiting Loyola.
The No. 13 Patriots were rewarded with a 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter that was enough to withstand a rally by the No. 10 Dons and give them a 56-50 win in Bel Air.
Senior forward Wyatt Smith led four Patriots in double figures with 13 points. Senior guard Isaiah Philmore added 11 points and 14 rebounds, and sophomore guards Nick Faust and Malcolm McMillan each had 10 points.
Defensively, John Carroll limited Loyola standout senior guard Matt Rum to one point before he fouled out in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots (22-8) improved to 10-7 in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, and the Dons (16-10) fell to 9-8 in league play. Both teams qualified for the playoffs, set to start Friday, with one regular-season game remaining. John Carroll could grab the third seed and a home game in the opening round with a win over No. 3 Calvert Hall on Wednesday and some help.
With Faust and McMillan penetrating to score or set up their big men, the Patriots relied on a big second quarter to start pulling away. They hit seven of 10 shots from the field in the quarter with last-minute jams from Erick Smith and Philmore giving them a 30-17 halftime lead.
"First half, coach [Tony Martin] always talks about coming out hard, delivering the first blow and always playing together, so that's basically what we did," Philmore said. "We're feeling real good. Hopefully, we can get that third seed, get a home game in the quarterfinals and see where we can go from there."
Despite yesterday's setback, the Dons had a productive week, winning three games and assuring a spot in the playoffs with a victory over Archbishop Spalding on Friday.
Loyola coach Josh Davalli said he was pleased that his team did not quit despite trailing by 16 points going into the fourth quarter.
The Dons kept John Carroll from hitting a field goal in the last quarter, and Mike Fitzpatrick made a three-pointer with 59 seconds left to cut the deficit to 51-46. But John Carroll's Jarred Jones hit two free throws on the next possession, and Philmore added two more to ice the Patriots' win.
"We played to the very end, and even without Matt late, the guys stepped up off the bench and showed a lot of heart and enthusiasm for the game, which was great," Davalli said.