Dec 11, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Yes, the folks at Bishop Ludden are still basking in the bright glow of the football team’s first-ever state championship.
They even celebrated the occasion at a school assembly in the gymnasium on Friday, the main highlight being football head coach John Cosgrove fulfilling a promise to his players and getting his head shaved on the court.
Hours later, many of those same gridiron heroes put on their basketball shorts and kept that good vibe going, overcoming a rough start to beat the Chittenango Bears 61-51.
Much change and upheaval surrounded Ludden as this season began, giving head coach Pat Donnelly one of his toughest tasks in his long and storied tenure.
In the off-season, the Gaelic Knights did not join the Class AA school’s exodus from the Onondaga High School League to the CNY Counties League.
Instead, it was slotted into the OHSL Freedom division and designated a Class A school, meaning that it would, for the most part, play a brand-new set of opponents and get just one game against “Holy War” rival CBA, on Jan. 11 at LeMoyne College.
Then came the football team’s storied run, which meant that Donnelly didn’t have his full complement of players until Nov. 26. That didn’t affect the schedule too much, though Ludden did move its scheduled opener with Class A powerhouse Jamesville-DeWitt until January.
Of the five starters that took the floor against Chittenango, four — Daquan Grobsmith, Connor Sweeney, Wendall Williams and James Braithwaite — played football, with Frank Smith the lone exception.
By contrast, the Bears had already played five games, all on the road, and had gone 3-2. So it came as little surprise that, out of the gate, Chittenango had all the rhythm and timing Ludden lacked, gaining a 9-0 lead before the Gaelic Knights could even get a basket.
Once it did settle down, though, Ludden began to take charge. Knowing what kind of speed he possessed, Donnelly inserted full-court pressure, contesting every inch of the court and forcing the Bears into all kinds of mistakes.
Grobsmith proved to be the spark on both ends of the floor, hitting on a trio of 3-pointers to help erase that early 9-0 deficit and making straight steals on the defensive side with his quick hands and hustle. He finished with 13 points.
By halftime, all that pressure helped put Ludden in front, 30-25, and though the Bears would make its share of runs in the second half behind Heath Stone and Chris Frascatore (13 points each), the Gaelic Knights would never get caught.
Williams took care of that part. His combination of speed and leaping ability (he dunked in the first half) was good enough, but he found a scoring touch in the second half, hitting on all kinds of shots and earning 17 of his 24 points as the Gaelic Knights drew clear.
Not even 24 hours later, the Gaelic Knights went to Rochester and registered a 66-63 overtime victory over Bishop Kearney.
Ludden nearly threw the game away after a terrific first half where defensive pressure and balanced scoring produced a lead as big as 19 before taking a 33-19 edge to the break.
Kearney gradually erased that deficit, using a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to jump out in front 52-51 before Ludden could respond.
They then went back and forth until Vince Sojda drained an open 3-pointer to put the Gaelic Knights back in front, 57-55. But Kearney forged a 57-57 tie when Brian Roberts hit a jumper with six seconds left in regulation.
Much of overtime was spent at the foul line. Ludden outscored Kearney 9-6 in that extra period, getting six of those points from free throws.
Williams, with 16 points, led four Gaelic Knights that scored in double figures. Grobsmith, Sweeney and Smith each finished with 10 points, as John Rooney gained six points. Kevin Roy and Sojda each had five points.
Ludden overcame a terrific performance by Kearney’s Chris Washington, who finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Ludden is on the road again Tuesday night, at Cortland, and is back home Saturday for a non-league game against Hilton.