Who plays the better basketball, Illinois or Kentucky? Chicago or Cincinnati?
Two teams from the Midwest traveled more than 1,000 miles to find out. And on Sunday at Golden Gate High School, it was the team from the Windy City that prevailed.
Loyola Academy, from the Chicago suburb of Wilmette, used a stifling defense and timely 3-pointers to beat Park Hills (Ky.)-Covington Catholic, 48-28, in the championship game of the Kelleher Firm Gulfshore Holiday Hoopfest.
Loyola made its first trip to Naples in 2016. Since then, the Ramblers have never lost in Southwest Florida, winning 12 straight games and three consecutive Hoopfest championships.
“Everything is great,” Ramblers 6-foot-8 junior Bennett Kwiecinski said of Naples. “The atmosphere, the weather. It’s a lot of fun to come down here with the team and win.”
Covington Catholic, which won Kentucky’s single-class state tournament last year but is located just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio, was making its first appearance in Naples. The Colonels went toe-to-toe with two-time defending Hoopfest champ Loyola, but they couldn’t find their offense in the second half.
Covington Catholic took a 13-12 lead with 5:10 left in the second quarter. The team from the Bluegrass State managed just 15 points the rest of the game, a span of more than 21 minutes.
Loyola closed the first half on an 8-1 run to lead by six at the break. The Ramblers were up nine to start the fourth, then really clamped down on defense.
The Colonels managed just five points in the final period and were scoreless the first 4 minutes of the fourth.
“All the credit is due to our coaches,” Loyola senior Quinn Pemberton said. “They gave us a game plan and we just really stuck to it. We were able to pull away by taking advantage of some matchups and adjustments.”
Pemberton scored seven points and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player for his all-around performance in four games over four days at Golden Gate. Kwiecinski scored 13 points, including 11 of his team’s first 18, and was named to the all-tournament second team.
Connor Barrett, a 6-4 senior, scored a game-high 17 points for the Ramblers and made the all-tournament first team.
Loyola won its final three games at the Hoopfest without one of its leading scorers. Jordan Kwiecinski, the 6-8 twin brother of Bennett, injured his ankle in the first game of the tournament and missed the final three.
Jordan Kwiecinski dressed for Sunday’s championship game, but the Ramblers didn’t need him thanks mostly to their aggressive defense.
“We put so much time into (our defense) in practice,” Bennett Kwiecinski said. “Everyone buys in to what they have to do. We take charges, we follow all our defensive principles, and everyone is locked in. When it’s good, it’s really good.”
Neil Green, a 6-6 junior, was Covington Catholic’s only scorer in double figures with 10 points. Junior guard Grant Disken scored six and made the all-tournament first team for the Colonels.
Community School 54, Deerfield Beach 48
After Community School lost in the Hoopfest semifinals late Saturday, coach Greg Donahue said he didn’t want to play in Sunday’s third-place game
“My guys are beat,” Donahue said.
The Seahawks didn’t leave Golden Gate’s gym until after 11 p.m. Saturday. They were back just 12 hours later for their fourth game in four days. However, Community School showed no signs of sluggishness on Sunday.
The Seahawks (11-2) got a dunk off the tipoff then raced out to a 20-9 lead in the second quarter.
“We were sore a little bit,” senior Parker Weiss said, “but it’s basketball — it’s always fun to play. We just went out there and did what we do best — win.”
Community School never trailed, but it wasn’t an easy win. Deerfield Beach, a Class 9A program that went to the regional championship game last season, got within four points at the start of the third quarter and stuck around the rest of the way.
Weiss led the Seahawks with 17 points and made the all-tournament first team. He made 7 of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter as the team hit 9 of its 13 foul shots to maintain its lead.
“We’re used to grinding in the summer, playing a lot of games every day,” Community School senior Jacob Siegel said of the quick turnaround between Saturday and Sunday. “We just dug deep and got the win.”
Siegel scored 13 points, while sophomore Ryker Vance added nine for the Seahawks.
DeGarrian Glass scored 12 points to lead Deerfield Beach, which dropped two straight games to end the Hoopfest and leave Naples at 10-3. Senior Victor Robinson, signed with Division I school Albany State, had nine points for the Bucks.
Kelleher Firm Gulfshore Holiday Hoopfest All-Tournament Team
MVP: Quinn Pemberton, Loyola
Connor Barrett, Loyola
Grant Disken, Covington Catholic
Parker Weiss, Community School
Victor Robinson, Deerfield Beach
Darron Humphrey, Lehigh
Marcellus Thomas, Kathleen
Dominic Pugh, Trinity Catholic
Carington Campbell, Hallandale
Nick Thelen, Covington Catholic
Bennett Kwiecinski, Loyola
Kelleher Firm Gulfshore Holiday Hoopfest at Golden Gate High School
Game 1 – Wilmette (Ill.)-Loyola 39, First Baptist Academy 24
Game 2 – Naples 60, Hallandale 58
Game 3 – Fort Lauderdale-St. Thomas Aquinas 58, Lehigh 54
Game 4 – Community School 66, Largo 40
Game 5 – Sanford-Seminole 72, Seacrest 48
Game 6 – Deerfield Beach 53, Ocala-Trinity Catholic 42
Game 7 – Parkland-Stoneman Douglas 65, Golden Gate 38
Game 8 – Park Hills (Ky.)-Covington Catholic 74, Lakeland-Kathleen 70
Consolation – Largo 50, Seacrest 49
Consolation –Trinity Catholic 68, Kathleen 53
Consolation – Lehigh 69, Hallandale 61
Consolation – First Baptist 84, Golden Gate 71
Quarterfinal 1 – Loyola 55, Naples 19
Quarterfinal 2 – Community School 77, St. Thomas Aquinas 71
Quarterfinal 3 – Covington Catholic 66, Stoneman Douglas 36
Quarterfinal 4 – Deerfield Beach 58, Seminole 38
Consolation – Golden Gate 63, Seacrest 57 (OT)
Consolation – Naples 75, Seminole 63
Consolation – Lehigh 96, Kathleen 55
Consolation – Largo 39, Hallandale 38
Consolation – First Baptist 52, Stoneman Douglas 43
Consolation – Trinity Catholic 83, Aquinas 59
Semifinals – Covington Catholic 53, Deerfield Beach 36
Semifinals – Loyola 46, Community School 39
Third-place game — Community School 54, Deerfield Beach 48
Championship — Loyola 48, Covington Catholic 28