The Loyola University Ramblers made their first 13 shots of the second half but it was a shot from junior Marques Townes with 6.2 seconds remaining that continued the dream story for the little school that could. Loyola advanced to the Elite 8 after defeating Nevada University 69-68 on Thursday night.

With the Ramblers ahead by just a point with a little over a half minute remaining in the game Townes caught a pass, pump-faked a Nevada defender and took a three-point shot that will be remembered in Chicago lore for years to come. “I’ll probably remember it for the rest of my life,” said Townes minutes after the game during the postgame press conference in the bowels of Philips Arena.

“That’s something you dream about and I’m blessed to be in that position.” Townes led the way with 18 points (nine in each half) while fellow junior Clayton Custer -the man that passed him the ball for the most famous shot in Loyola Chicago history, scored 15 points.

The Loyola Ramblers -and Sister Jean, the world famous team chaplain- are blessed to be in this position as well. Nevada was down by as many as 10 points, 55-45, with 10:05 to play in the game. The game would be tied at 59 with 4:06 to play after the Wolfpack managed a 14-4 run.

“I’m telling you, you’ve got to give so much credit to Nevada,” said Loyola head coach Porter Moser. “They never quit, I mean those guys keep coming at you and coming at you.”

Loyola made their first 13 shots of the second half and the Nevada Wolfpack just wouldn’t go away despite falling behind by 10 points. The Wolfpack went on a run of their own, a 16-9 run in fact that ultimately saw the game tied on a Cody Martin drive down the center of the Ramblers defense with 4:01 remaining in the game.

“They covered so much ground, so I was blessed we made enough plays at the end, we got as couple of stops at the end,” said Moser, who after being informed that his team made their first 13 shots to start the second half was quite surprised. Call it just being into the game I guess. “These kids are resilient, I’m so proud of these guys.”

What can easily be forgotten is the seven points scored for Loyola by Aundre Jackson, a senior reserve that Moser gave credit to his assistant coaches for recommending that he start the second half. Jackson was 1-6 from the field for two points at halftime. He would 5-5 the rest of the way for 13 points the rest of the way.

Loyola will play the winner of the Kansas State/Kentucky game that followed their game.

It wasn’t always so sweet (shooting) for the upstart little Jesuit school that could as the Ramblers were down 12-4 early in their Sweet 16 meeting with the Nevada University Wolfpack after junior Caleb Martin took a bounce pass from his twin brother, junior forward Cody Martin, for a layup. Then the Cinderella Ramblers from Chicago started doing what they had done all tournament long.

They fought back Chicago style, first with a 12-0 run capped by a steal and layup by junior guard Clayton Custer that brought them within a point at 24-23 and a three-pointer from junior Marques Townes just before halftime put his team in front 28-24.

Nevada junior Caleb Martin led the team in scoring with 21 points while his twin brother and junior Cody added 16 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists. Fellow junior Jordan Caroline scored 19 points  

The Loyola fans in their Harry Potter-esque scarves and polite applause and of course their world famous internet sensation Sister Jean live to fight another day. “They’re so resilient and confident,” said Moser of his team. He could say the same for the city it represents and the fans that made their way south for what is now an Elite 8. Hope no longer Chicago, this is real.

Loyola junior guard Clayton Custer (13) scored 15 points in the Ramblers one-point victory over Nevada to advance to the Elite 8 on Saturday night. Photo credit: Itoro Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice

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