Ever since Parker Jackson-Cartwright withdrew from Loyola late in the regular season, the Cubs have been searching for a new player to be The Closer. Max Hazzard, a junior guard, assumed the role to perfection on Saturday in a Southern California Regional Division I quarterfinal playoff game against Mission Viejo.
With the gym half full because of a 2 p.m. start and students busy with other activities, Loyola came out lethargic. The Cubs looked beaten going into the fourth quarter, trailing by 14 points.
But Hazzard scored 16 of his 24 points in the final eight minutes, including two free throws with 3.1 seconds left, to give Loyola a 60-59 victory over Mission Viejo. He made four three-pointers in the quarter.
"He's a big-time money player," Coach Jamal Adams said. "That's why he's been on versity since he was a freshman. He's trying to do things all great point guards do. I always tell him point guards are measured in wins. Tonight we got on his back and he carried us home."
Hazzard was helped by a major mistake by Mission Viejo. With 10.7 seconds left, Loyola (27-3) had the ball down by one point. Mission Viejo only had two team fouls and started to foul each time Loyola inbounded the ball. The Diablos fouled twice and probably could have run out the clock with more quick fouls. But the third time, Hazzard got the ball, drove to the basket and was fouled while shooting with 3.1 seconds left.
"He just didn't foul him when I told him," Coach Troy Roelen said. "They're kids."
Hazzard made the Diablos pay (25-8), making the two free throws. It was a tough ending for Mission Viejo, which received 17 points from Dallas Hartmann, 14 from Chandler Hutchison and 10 from freshman Kaden Rasheed.
Thomas Welsh supported Hazzard with 18 points.
"I love my seniors too much to let us lose this game," Hazzard said.
Loyola advances to Tuesday's semifinals and will be the host team against Corona Centennial, a 72-63 winner over Fairfax.