(New Orleans, La.) – A season that began with championship aspirations would be put to the test in a Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) semifinal showdown between the top-seeded and defending conference champion William Carey University and the No. 4 seed Loyola University New Orleans.
Sophomore guard Tre’Von Jasmine put together yet another strong effort on Friday night but the Wolf Pack ultimately came up short 86-71 against the Crusaders.
With the loss, Loyola wrapped up Friday with a 22-9 overall record. The Wolf Pack’s 22 wins this season are tied for the second most in program history and the most by a Loyola men’s basketball team in over 70 years.
Loyola was haunted by another slow start out of the gate. William Carey’s Jaylen Moore knocked down a jumper to put his team on top 11-5 four minutes into the game.
Two-consecutive trips to the foul line put the defending champions up 10 at 15-5 with 14:05 to play in the first half.
Back-to-back layups by Johnny Griffin Jr. and Nate Pierre brought the game to within six (15-9) with 12:52 to go until intermission.
But those six points would be the closest the team would come before halftime, as the Crusaders closed out the next 12 minutes on a 26-18 scoring spurt. William Carey led the way at 41-27 heading into the locker room.
Loyola shot just 10-of-26 (38%) and 2-of-8 (25%) in the opening frame. The team also had 11 giveaways and was outrebounded by 10 on the glass at 22-12.
The Wolf Pack saw William Carey’s lead increase to 20 (49-29) at the 17:16 mark of the contest. The trio of Tre’Von Jasmine, Nick Parker and Jalen Gray would have their hands in the next 16 points for the men’s team to bring the deficit down to 10 (55-45) with 11:54 to play in the ballgame.
A jumper by Parker brought the score to within eight at 58-50 with just over 11 minutes to go in the matchup.
Field goals by Crusader’s Ashton Woodson would put the game out of reach for the Wolf Pack, making the game a 19-point deficit at 82-63 down the stretch of the contest.
William Carey went on to win it 86-71 behind 17 points by Leo Garrett. The Crusaders will also look to defend their SSAC title against No. 3 ranked Dalton State College on Saturday.
Loyola shot 23-of-54 (42.1%) from the floor and connected on just 3-of-13 (23.1%) from beyond the arc.
The Wolf Pack was also outrebounded 43-30 on the glass and coughed up 21 turnovers in the heart-breaking loss in the semifinals.
Jasmine led the way for his team with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the bench. Parker added 12 points and Nate Pierre and Gray both chipped in 10 points in their final SSAC game of the season.
In the midst of the difficult loss, Head Coach Stacy Hollowell shared his thoughts on the team’s historic season:
“This group of guys have poured their hearts and souls into our program. They set personal goals aside and played for each other and the result was really impressive.”