WELLESLEY, Mass. –- Just when it looked like BC High’s deficit was insurmountable, sophomore Jack Loughnane came up in the clutch to help bring the Eagles back.
Loughnane (17 points) hit three free throws at the end of the third quarter to help build some momentum going into the final period, but it was a jumper he hit late in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles (14-7) the lead for good – their first lead since the first quarter.
The sophomore caught the ball at the top of the key with less than a minute to go in the game, faked right, went left, and pulled up from behind the free throw line for a jumper. The shot swooshed through the rim, and moments later the Eagles completed one of the best comebacks of the year, winning 66-58 over host Wellesley (15-6).
“In practice we always take that pull-up jumpshot,” Loughnane said, “I’m trying to get to the point where it’s an automatic shot. They trusted me with the shot, I hit it, and great defense secured the win at the other end.”
When asked how many times Loughnane has practiced that shot with his Boston Amateur Basketball Club (BABC) AAU coach Leo Papile or with his father, BC High coach Bill Loughanne, Jack sure didn’t exaggerate his repititons.
“Thousands. That’s my favorite shot,” he said with a smirk.
Bill Loughnane talked to his team on Tuesday night about Andover, a Division 1 North favorite who nearly lost to Billerica in the opening round of the tournament the other night. His message: play for 32 minutes.
“One of the things was we talk about a 32 minute game, all the time, since day one," Bill Loughnane said. "One of the things I mentioned to them the other night was Andover. Billerica, at 31 minutes probably felt good. But it’s a 32-minute game and you’ve got to play for 32 minutes. Leave it out there and let the chips fall where they may."
From his father’s perspective, Bill Loughnane says Jack’s poise comes from many years of good competition, practice, and big games.
“He’s played a lot of games in his life, he’s been lucky enough to have coaches who let him take a lot of big shots throughout his career," Loughnane said. "They did a nice job tonight of that ‘never say die’ attitude and just continuing to work. They hit some tough shots, I thought we played some pretty good defense and they just hit shots in our face. We were just hoping they’d miss some shots, and we got lucky that they did."
Slowing down Noel: Wellesley junior Ryan Noel has quickly emerged as one of the best forwards in Eastern Mass. At 6-foot-7 with a feathery touch from anywhere on the floor, Noel has been able to make a name for himself because of his finishing ability.
To the surprise of none, Noel got off to a big start in the first half against BC High. That was when Loughnane made the decision to pull center Phil Leotsakos up off the block in order to keep Noel out of the paint –- where he tortured the Eagles in the first half.
“We brought [Leotsakos] up a little just so [Noel] couldn’t get that free cut to the basket," Loughnane said. "He was killing us on that cut to the basket, we just made a little adjustment to take that away and keep him out on the perimeter a little bit."
Forward Steve Young -- who has been recovering from an ankle injury for the majority of the regular season and came off the bench for 10 points -- said the difference down the stretch was keeping Noel off the glass, too. BC High dominated the glass down the stretch.
“Down 11, we started to get a little momentum, we had some key rebounds -– I remember we were crashing the boards hard," Young said. "We just worked hard, we kept each other in it, we motivated each other whenever something good would happen…teamwork just kept us in it."
Aidan James led the Raiders in scoring with 17 points.
Bring on CM: Wednesday was one of the Eagles’ best performances of the year. In addition to Loughnane’s 17 points and Young’s 10, Tom Galanek contributed 12 points and Isaiah Bowman came off the bench to nail three straight treys to help the Eagles’ offense stay afloat early in the first half.
“They’re starters, basically,” Bill Loughnane said of Bowman and Young, “We know they both have very good offensive games, and they gave us everything they had tonight. Those first three threes Isaiah hit, we were reeling a little bit then, and he did a great job. Steve gave us some nice inside presence, which we really needed.”
Young added: “It’s a state game. When you go in, especially the younger guys, they’re nervous. So when you go and display confidence, Jack Loughanane –- it rubs off. Isaiah hits three threes -- it gets the game rolling, and when you get comfortable you can start playing.”
The Eagles move on to play a familiar foe, Catholic Conference rival Catholic Memorial, in the Division 1 South quarterfinal on Friday night. The last meeting between the two was a 106-100 instant classic that was won by the Knights.
“We’ve been there before. Out last game against CM was a great game, we all know that, and we played really well that game,” Bill Loughnane said. “I hope we have another one in us, to play that good…and I guess just that they don’t play as well this time.”