Wolf Pack dominates in semifinal, looks toward final tomorrow and beyond

Gabriella Killett, Managing Editor for Print

Juanita Collins said her son Myles Burns has wanted to be a star since he was born. Before he turned one, Collins said she had people telling her that Burns was going to be an athlete. And Burns, a senior guard for Loyola’s men’s basketball team, said he has plans of going pro. 

The night of March 21, at the first National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics semifinal win Loyola has had in 77 years, Burns got one step closer to his goal when the Wolf Pack dominated Arizona Christian 80-68. But even so, Burns, the Southern States Athletic Conference Championship’s Most Valuable Player, spent close to 15 minutes of the first half on the bench in foul trouble. 

The night was a testament to the team as a whole, according to Head Coach Stacy Hollowell, who said players like Jalen Galloway, who he recruited as a transfer from College of Idaho last year, know how to step up. 

“There’s not one guy here that’s for himself over the team,” Hollowell said. “We’re going to do what we’ve done all year. We’re going to come out.” 

Galloway said that if his team didn’t set him up to succeed in helping him get open, he doesn’t think he’d be able to be the semifinal’s leading scorer in the first half. 

“It feels good to know that they have the trust in me,” Galloway said. 

Senior guard Zach Wrightsil said making the final game in the NAIA tournament is an unbelievable accomplishment for him and his team. 

“It’s crazy what we’re doing here,” Wrightsil said. “It feels so special.” 

Harold Kuntz, a member of Loyola’s class of 2007, works as a journalist in Kansas City and went to the NAIA’s semifinal game in maroon and gold. Kuntz remembered that when he was a member of the Wolf Pack, there were basketball teams with as low as three wins a season. 

“To see all the progress (the program’s) made since then, it’s amazing,” he said. 

Hollowell said that in 2017 and 2018, he was recruiting the current senior class that houses Burns and Wrightsil. He said that he knew when he saw the current seniors play, they would be movers and shakers for Loyola’s basketball program.

But Wrightsil said it’s important for him to stay humble. Making it this far has some Wolf Pack players looking toward even bigger dreams, he said. 

“I feel like what comes with getting this far, I feel like it will open up a lot of opportunities for me and some of the other guys that have aspirations to play basketball professionally,” Wrightsil said.

And Burns said that making the championship is a “stepping stone” for him.

“It feels good, but I can’t say that it feels as good as I want it to feel,” Burns said.