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Aubrey Galvan and Loyola win state championship

NORMAL — Loyola junior guard Aubrey Galvan picked up her first foul about two minutes into a tight Class 4A state championship game Saturday night.

The Ramblers were poised to have an undefeated season. The pressure was palpable.

And Galvan was smiling.

“I just trust myself,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t going to really affect things, and then everyone was trying to get in my head. “It seemed funny to me.”

Loyola remained undefeated at Illinois State CEFCU Arena, defeating Nazareth 44-40, and Galvan had the last laugh.

The Ramblers (38-0) joined Lincoln (38-0), which won the 3A title, as the first girls basketball team to remain undefeated and state since Maine West went 35-0 in 4A in 2018-19. He equaled his record. for most victories in a season. Loyola also prevented Nazareth (32-4) from becoming the first team in state history to win the 3A title a season ago and win 4A a year later.

“Everyone showed up and showed up every game,” Galvan said. “The best feeling in the world.”

Galvan, who is 1.80 tall, completed the race with 15 points. Senior guard Paige Engels scored a game-high 17 points for Loyola, while senior guard Kelsey Langston added 7 points and 4 rebounds.

Nazareth’s Stella Sakalas (right) looks to pass the ball against Loyola in the Class 4A state championship game at CEFCU Arena on Saturday, March 2, 2024 in Normal. (Vincent D. Johnson/Pioneer Press)

senior forward Olivia Austin and sophomore guard Stella Sakalas each scored 16 points for Nazareth, and senior guard Danielle Scully grabbed a team-high five rebounds.

Galvan isn’t afraid to make shots, and that courage was the catalyst for the Ramblers, who outscored Nazareth 15-2 in the third quarter. That included Galvan’s 3-pointer from NBA range with 4:34 left to give Loyola a lead it couldn’t relinquish.

“I think it all happens at halftime,” he said. “We all trusted each other. I think we all had courage in the second half.”

Loyola coach Jeremy Schoenecker said this season for Loyola actually started in early June, when Galvan began playing summer league with his new teammates after transferring from Deerfield.

“He and Paige played AAU basketball together,” Schoenecker said. “We talked to Aubrey when she decided to leave Deerfield. … ‘Hey, Paige, what kind of person is she?’”

Galvan helped lead Deerfield He made it to the 3A state semifinals a year ago. Stepping into a new situation in an established team is not easy.

“We were bringing back our entire team from last year,” Schoenecker said. “It was one of those things he adapted to right away.”

Loyola's Clare Weasler and Aubrey Galvan listen to their coach during a fourth-quarter timeout in the Class 4A state championship game against Nazareth at CEFCU Arena on Friday, March 1, 2024, in Normal.  (Vincent D. Johnson/Pioneer Press)
Loyola’s Aubrey Galvan (right) celebrates with teammates after defeating Nazareth in the Class 4A state championship game at CEFCU Arena on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Normal. (Vincent D. Johnson/Pioneer Press)

Engels agreed that Galvan adapted quickly.

“When he came here we all welcomed him openly,” Engels said. “He very clearly connected with us. It was our first summer league game, boom, it happened.

“He smiles after a foul. We’re just having fun there. “We love playing together and being together, that’s why we’re so successful.”

Galvan showed early in the match on Saturday that he could be a key factor on offense. He hit a floater from mid-range in the first quarter, and after a layup by Austin, Galvan drilled a shot off the glass and then hit another shot in the lane.

Galvan’s shot kept the Ramblers in rhythm even as Nazareth led 25-17 at halftime.

“I know when I need to step up my game a little bit,” he said. “There were important names there. But it is a team effort. They gave me the ball, and I took the shots.”

Loyola's Kelsey Langston (22) runs screaming toward the bench as the Ramblers win the Class 4A state championship game against Nazareth and finish the season 38-0 at CEFCU Arena in Normal on Friday, March 1, 2024.  (Vincent D. Johnson) / Pioneer Press)
Loyola’s Kelsey Langston (22) reacts after winning the Class 4A state championship game against Nazareth at CEFCU Arena on Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Normal. (Vincent D. Johnson/Pioneer Press)

Considering Loyola has seven seniors, including Engels, Langston and forward Julia Gamboa, Galvan has the opportunity to further develop that leadership role.

He already speaks like a leader.

“The team has confidence in me and I have faith in the team,” he said. “It’s nothing personal.”

Gregg Voss is a freelance reporter.

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