Dec 29, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Not only was the Bishop Ludden boys basketball team seeking to repeat as champions of its own Rosemary Corcoran Holiday Tournament, it also was after a major career milestone.
Should the Gaelic Knights prevail in the tournament, Pat Donnelly, the team’s head coach since 1987, would own 400 career victories.
When it was done, though, Donnelly remained stuck at 399 wins. Ludden easily handled St. Paul, from Niagara Falls, Ontario, 64-42 in the opener, but lost the final to St. Peter’s (Staten Island) in a tight 54-50 contest.
Many Ludden alumni were on hand for what proved to be a memorable weekend at the tournament named in honor of Rosemary Corcoran, the school’s late cheerleading coach.
Prior to Saturday night’s opening-round game, the Gaelic Knights officially dedicated its 2008-09 season to Wes Valentine, the 2007 graduate who lost his life on Feb. 1. Valentine’s parents were on hand to dedicate a plaque in his honor that will be placed on permanent display in the lobby outside the gymnasium.
From there, Ludden went on to handle St. Paul to give Donnelly win no. 399. They were tied, 11-11, after one period, but the Gaelic Knights used a 9-0 run at the start of the second quarter to go in front, then had a 12-2 third-quarter outburst to put it away.
Rick Montgomery poured in 19 points, setting a strong pace. John Rooney had 10 points, while Frank Smith and Jared Littlejohn earned seven points apiece. Omar Osbourne and Kevin Bullock each got six points.
Earlier, St. Peter’s had ripped Central Square 70-37 in the other opening-round game. Though 3-0, the Red Hawks had not played in two weeks, and the rust showed as it got just 10 points in the first half and never recovered.
Central Square recovered to beat St. Paul 62-34 in Sunday’s consolation game, setting up the final. By far, Ludden’s biggest challenge was figuring out how to contain St. Peter’s star player, O.D. Anosike, a 6-8 center going to Siena College next fall.
At least in the early stages, the Gaelic Knights handled that task well, playing superb team defense. On the other end, Rooney managed nine first-quarter points, outscoring St. Peter’s by himself as the Gaelic Knights led, 11-8, at the end of the period.
Neither side would have a big lead all night. They traded baskets through much of the next two periods, with Smith assuming the central role in the Gaelic Knights’ attack as Rooney cooled off for a while.
The Eagles, up 23-22 at the half, stayed in front during the third period because tournament MVP Lenny Regalia got hot, hitting on three 3-pointers. The last of them pushed St. Peter’s to a 41-36 lead with one quarter to play.
Ludden would tie it twice more in the last period. But with the game even at 45-45, St. Peter’s used a Regalia basket, followed by back-to-back conversions from Anosike, to go ahead for good.
Rooney hit a 3-pointer with 21.7 seconds left to make it 53-50, only to see the Eagles clinch it when Trevor Sykes sank a free throw with 18.2 seconds to play.
Both Rooney, with 19 points, and Smith, with 15 points, had to be effective to keep Ludden close, because Montgomery, as the focus of St. Peter’s defensive attention, managed just nine points. Still, Montgomery would join Rooney and Smith on the All-Tournament Team.
On Friday night, Ludden (5-2) hosts East Syracuse-Minoa in the makeup of a snowed-out Dec. 19 game, another chance for Donnelly to reach the 400-win mark before the schedule gets tougher.