Loyola relied on its defense Friday to keep Woodlawn in check as well to create offense.
But one play stood out as Loyola held on for a 48-43 road win.
Woodlawn slashed Loyola’s lead to 47-43 with 37 seconds left and stolen the inbounds pass. But Loyola’s John Russell swatted the shot of an attacking Knight to seal the win.
“We’ve had some issues with rebounding, giving up too many second and third shots,” said Loyola coach Bill Keel. “Toward the end, we sealed off really well. We talked about controlling the boards, and I think our kids did a really good job in the last four minutes.”
Senior guard Dominique Kennedy scored 26 of Loyola’s 48 points, but Kennedy did it within the flow of Loyola’s offense.
Kennedy scored seven points in a 14-4 run in the second quarter that boosted Loyola’s lead to 24-13. Loyola never trailed after the first quarter.
“My teammates – I’m in the right place at the right time, and they get me the ball,” Kennedy said. “We’re brothers, and we’re a family. That’s why we have 21 wins this season.”
Loyola (21-10, 7-3 District 1-4A) entered Friday’s regular season finale as the No. 27 team in Class 4A, according to kenramsey.com’s power ratings
Kennedy entered the game averaging 22 points this season and shooting 53 percent from the field. The senior guard, who is drawing interest from Northwestern State, scored in the open court and by driving the ball Friday.
“Dominique is one of the top players in this part of Louisiana, but he doesn’t do it selfishly,” Keel said. “He makes himself open, his teammates look for him and he has a way of getting to the basket.
“We play as a unit and you don’t see any one-man shows out there or anybody being a stud. We all played together, and we rely on each other every minute.”
Down 26-17 early in the third quarter, Woodlawn starting making a push with a 7-2 run to trail 28-24. Cory Williams was the only Knight in double figures with 11 points.
The Knights never could get closer than four points, but they didn’t let Loyola run away with the game.
Woodlawn’s one senior missed the game with food poisoning, and second-year coach Kenneth Sykes says his freshmen- and sophomore-laden team has already surpassed Woodlawn’s win output in recent seasons.
“We’ve fought all year long. It’s one thing to have good talent, but it was tough getting these young guys to gel early in the season,” Sykes said. “But this is the first time this program has had 10 wins or more in a long time.
“But this isn’t about basketball, this about life for a lot of these kids that come from tough situations. They’re starting to buy.”
Woodlawn finished the season 12-17 and 4-6 in district.