Off for more than a week, the Bishop Ludden girls basketball team had a lot of time to practice and work together on what needed improvement -- important for a young roster without any seniors.
The Gaelic Knights then showed off that work in last Thursday's game against Solvay, overcoming an uncertain start to earn a comfortable 68-45 victory over the Bearcats and improve to 4-1 on the season.
Ludden had not played since a Dec. 9 win over Marcellus, a span of nine days. And it would catch Solvay with a bit of confidence coming off a 42-39 win over Homer earlier in the week.
Throughout the first quarter, as the Gaelic Knights struggled to find its shooting touch, Solvay hung in there, and even seized an 11-10 lead before the period ended.
Ashley Cianfriglia would light the spark in the second quarter, the sophomore hitting on a trio of 3-point shots. The last of them ignited a 7-0 run that closed the first half, giving Ludden a 29-19 edge going into halftime.
The third quarter would really decide matters, though. Ludden's full-court defensive pressure took a cumulative toll on the Bearcats, leading to turnovers and baskets on the other end.
By themselves, junior Michelle Roesch and freshman Natalie Barletta accounted for 18 of Ludden's 23 points in that period. For the night, Roesch and Cianfriglia each had 17 points, with Cianfriglia finishing with five 3-pointers, while Barletta earned 14 points.
Solvay, whose offense continues to improve with each outing, had Pucello gain 20 points and Liz Martinez earn 12 points, despite each of them battling foul trouble all night.
Forced to carry the load in last Monday's game against Homer, Pucello did so, pushing the Bearcats past the Trojans.
As they went back and forth all night, Solvay found itself trailing, 35-30, going into the fourth quarter. But Pucello would not let them get beat.
Time and again in the final period, Pucello got open inside and converted, and Solvay inched in front, 40-39, as time wound down. With six seconds left, Pucello hit on two free throws to build the margin to three, and the Trojans could not tie it up.
For the night, Pucello had 26 points, from 10 field goals and six successful foul shots. Martinez helped on the outside, getting nine points, while Cierra Garner added six points. Jessica Rigg, with 14 points, led Homer's effort.