LA North: Loyola 66, Crespi 55

ENCINO – A particularly difficult nonleague schedule earlier this season resulted in more than a few losses for the Los Angeles Loyola High boy's basketball team. In retrospect though, the setbacks might have been a blessing in disguise.

It appears as if the Cubs are a battle tested group these days and that was blatantly obvious on Monday night when they traveled to play in a hostile environment at Crespi and still managed to prevail with a 66-55 Mission League victory.

With the win, Loyola (14-5, 5-2) remains in the race for the league championship. Ranked No. 14 in the ESPNLosAngeles.com top 20 poll, the Cubs are two games behind first-place North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake (18-2, 6-0).

The Celts (13-6, 4-3) didn't do themselves any favors with the loss. Accordingly, they will most likely slip from the No.13 spot in the rankings.

Justin Childress came out an played with a purpose in the opening minutes of the game for Loyola. The 6-foot junior guard made a couple of timely baskets to key a rather large run that gave the Cubs a 24-6 advantage in the first quarter.

It was more of the same in the second quarter, more of the Cubs scoring seemingly at will. This time around, Childress had help. Jacob Hazzard, Julian Harrell and Parker Jackson-Cartwright got in on the act and Loyola took a 34-52 lead at the break.

Behind the play of Kenny Stenhouse, Matt Mournier and Reggie Coates, Crespi mounted a rally after intermission. The Celts cut the deficit down to three points in the third quarter, although they ended up trailing 47-41 to start the fourth quarter.

Coming out flat proved to be the downfall for Crespi as Stenhouse & Co. did their best to stay close down the stretch, but ultimately, faded.

Childress finished with a game-high 20 points. Jackson-Cartwright added 12 points, as did Hazzard. And Harrell contributed 11 points of his own.

Stenhouse led the way for the Celts and had 17 points. When all was said and done, Mournier had 12 points. Coates also finished up with 12.

The Cubs have little, or no time to dwell on the victory and taking their latest step in the right direction. They must regroup quickly and prepare for a pair of league games later this week, Wednesday night on the road against Mission Hills Alemany and Friday at home against West Hills Chaminade. Both games are scheduled to tipoff at 7 p.m.