1976 Basketball Team (2000)
Any conversation about the greatest basketball teams in Rambler history must rank the 1976 squad at or near the top. Certainly theirs was one of Loyola's most successful seasons, punctuated by a stirring post-season run and an Elite Eight berth. Arguably the most defining moment in Loyola's cage history owes to the 1976 team's string of three championships in one week: the Class AA Regional, Sectional, and Super-Sectional. Buoyed by their Regional playoff wins over rivals New Trier West and New Trier East - the latter by thirty-four points - the Ramblers re-invented themselves after a modest 8-5 Catholic League record. A glimpse of what lay ahead surfaced in two second-place finishes in the Niles West Thanksgiving Tournament and the Danville Christmas Tournament, where the 76'ers shot a single-game tourney record 64.8 from the field. Fueled by a dynamic, selfless senior class (notably in sophomore starter Mark Daniel, Roy Brandys, Terry Cullen, Kirk Tatge), a rising star in sophomore starter Mark Feireisel, an opportunistic bench (Bill Davis, Tom Riordan), a late-season call-up from the freshman ranks (Chris Faggi (Hall of Fame)), and stellar coaching (Head Coach Bill Gleason, Assistant Coach Jim O'Donnell), the team played with a chip on its shoulder. Brash, quirky, resourceful, the 1976 cagers put their own spin on March Madness. With the Sectional wins over Crystal Lake and North Chicago, the upstart Ramblers braced for the Super-Sectional showdown against Niles West, whom they summarily dispatched. The victory over the Indians secured for Loyola its first (and thus far only) Elite Eight invitation. Unfortunately, and IHSA quarter-final loss (in overtime, no less) to Oak Park closed the book on the '76 season. Loyola finished its whirlwind ride with a 23-9 mark to solidify its reputation as a basketball powerhouse. When coaches and players unite to exact a suffocating defense, an offense geared to optimum shot selection, and a single purpose, the results are both predictable and telling. The 1976 Basketball Team claims as its legacy an indelible stamp of excellence.