When it comes to putting on a rafter and rim-rattling good time, Byrd and Loyola College Prep know how to do it well.
With a standing room only crowd looking on, Byrd turned on a highly motorized version of offense in the third quarter to zoom by the visiting Flyers 83-63 on Friday night in the Byrd gym.
Between chants of “C.E. Byrrrrrd” and “LCP,” depending on which team made an outstanding play, the atmosphere was electric throughout, despite the Yellow Jackets (18-3) taking charge in the third quarter. Dunks by Loyola’s Drakaleus Williams and Byrd’s Chad Lott (22 points) kept the fever pitch lofty.
“It was a really good atmosphere for high school basketball – a playoff-type atmosphere – and that’s what I told the kids at halftime,” Byrd coach Rusty Johnson said.
It was still anybody’s game through the first five minutes of the third quarter with the Flyers (13-6) leading 48-44 with 2:45 to play in the frame. But Loyola, which had led 44-36 three minutes into the frame following Williams’ jam, went into a scoring and ball-handling funk. Meanwhile, Byrd switched into high gear, exploding for 14-0 run to end the period with a 58-48 advantage.
The 18-point swing in the third wore down the pesky Flyers.
“Midway through the third quarter we started feeling our legs going out,” Loyola coach Bill Keel said. “They ran people in and out on us and we couldn’t slow them down. But give Byrd credit, they are very talented and a well-coached team.”
In the third-quarter run, Byrd’s Montrey Thomas, who led all scorers with 27 points, became a whirling dervish, scoring 11 points in about two minutes of action. An intentional foul by Loyola on Thomas cost the visitors four points, even though he missed the free throws.
Loyola kept battling in the fourth quarter and was within 64-57 with about five minutes to play, but was forced to foul to try to cut into the lead and Byrd brought the win home behind another thundering dunk from Lott.
“We had lost a couple of games coming in, so we needed a game like this heading into district play,” Johnson said. “Loyola played the game very hard.”
Keel also said the game was a good test for his squad.
“Byrd is one of the best teams in the state and this game showed we could hang with them, even though it got out of hand late with all the free throws,” Keel said. “We just didn’t have the rotation they have.”