Back when Max Hazzard was a freshman at Loyola and learning from his brother, Jacob, and standout point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, he clearly was taking mental notes and preparing for the day he'd be all grown up and ready to take charge.
That day has arrived in his senior season. The UC Irvine signee scored 24 of his 26 points in the second half, leading Loyola to a 63-59 win over No. 5-ranked Long Beach Poly in the championship game of the Beverly Hills tournament on Saturday night. He was named tournament MVP. Loyola (7-1) trailed Poly (7-1) at halftime, 29-19. Hazzard had two points, a basket he scored with 44 seconds left in the half.
"I just got focused," he said. "At first, I tried to ease myself into the game and get my teammates involved. I was missing a lot of easy shots, but I've been doing this for four years. I'm used to games like that. I pulled it together."
Hazzard started attacking in the third quarter and contributed 16 points as the Cubs closed to 45-41. In the fourth quarter, his aggressiveness became contagious. Stone Gettings, who had a huge tournament for Loyola, finished with 16 points and made clutch free throws in the end. Henry Welsh, an improving 6-foot-10 junior, clinched the win with two free throws with 7.1 seconds left. Hale Thornhill-Wilson also made a couple pressure free throws down the stretch.
It was a missed opportunity for Poly, which won the Redondo tournament championship. The Jackrabbits had a hard time making outside shots. Sophomore Zafir Williams was the most reliable shooter. He finished with 17 points. KJ Feagin added 16.
As for Loyola, the Cubs are suddenly looking like an Open Division team. Their only loss was to Fairfax in the El Segundo tournament. And the good news is there's lots of potential for improvement as Welsh keeps developing and the Cubs get more contributions off the bench. And having Hazzard around isn't too bad, either.
"I did think this was possible," Hazzard said. "Stone's been playing incredible. Henry's been playing incredible. We're the underdogs, which is new for us. It's exciting."