By Andres Waters
Just seconds after the crowd erupted, Loyola Academy’s gym instantly fell silent as senior captain Ramar Evans stepped to the free-throw line to shoot a 1-and-1.
Down by two with four seconds left in the fourth quarter, it was all up to him.
Evans had struggled to find his rhythm all night, especially from the free throw line, and had tallied only seven points before the final minute of the third quarter. But with the game and the team’s five-game win streak on the line, he glowed with confidence.
“Get the rebound,” someone yelled from the Chargers bench as Evans prepared to shoot the first shot. “He’ll miss it.”
As the attempt swished through the net, a sense of nervousness clouded the gym, but Evans calmly stepped to the line and drilled his second shot to level the score at 50-50 and send the game into overtime.
He later topped that moment by hitting a pair of clutch free throws with five seconds on the clock to pull off the 60-59 comeback win.
“The thing about Ramar, is Ramar is a gamer,” assistant coach Michael Sneed said. “When it’s on the line, there’s never a doubt. He’s calm in the moment where most people falter or fall, and that’s when he’s at his strongest.”
Evans teammates are beginning to reflect their captain, so when he plays with confidence, the others follow.
While Friday’s victory, is simply another tally in the win column, it means so much more for Loyola (11-5). The Ramblers are finally playing with confidence as the Chicago Catholic League Tournament quickly approaches.
Evans wasn’t concerned about the pressure he faced because his teammates had faith in him.
“[They] were all screaming at me telling me ‘This is what you do, you’re our best player and our captain’,” he said. “This is your moment.”
After starting the season 5-5, with a handful of close losses, Loyola is on a six-game win streak and has won eight of its’ last nine games. The Ramblers last loss came in overtime against Taft on Dec. 23.
Since then, Loyola traveled to Naples, Florida, where the team began a four-game win streak to capture the Gulfshore Holiday Hoop Fest Championship before returning to Chicago to blow out De La Salle on the road on Jan. 6.
Sneed said he believes Friday’s win is exactly what the players need as they prepare for the CCL tournament.
“We’ve been up against the wall in overtime four-straight games,” he said. “We needed that one. That was the breakthrough.”
Senior center Kris Lampley thinks winning Friday’s game is a sign of just how far the team has come since the start of the season.
“I think right now, we’re clicking,” Lampley said. “Early in the season we were finding ways to lose. But right now, we’re finding way to win. Heading into the Catholic League [Tournament], we’ve put ourselves in a great position.”