Feb 05, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
As spirited as the boys basketball rivalry between Bishop Ludden and Christian Brothers Academy has been, a sense of perspective always has run through it. After all, the first game between the Gaelic Knights and Brothers was played Nov. 22, 1963 — just hours after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
And in the shadow of another unexpected tragedy — the stabbing death of 2007 Ludden graduate Wesley Valentine – Ludden came to Onondaga Community College on Super Bowl Sunday determined to beat the Brothers for the first time since 2005 — a string of six consecutive defeats.
But try as it could with a gallant second-half rally, the Gaelic Knights could not overcome a flat first half, watching as CBA hung on for a 55-48 victory that extended the skid to seven and moved the Brothers to a 42-40 edge in the “Holy War” series.
Early Friday morning, outside a club on Syracuse’ north side, Valentine, 18 and a freshman at OCC, lost his life, casting a deep cloud over the game that was supposed to be played later that night before an ice storm forced a postponement.
Yet even on Sunday, the emotions ran high. Ludden’s players wore black ribbons on their warm-up suits and black stripes on the left shoulder of their jerseys.
Prior to the game, both teams and the large crowd, instead of observing a moment of silence, gave Valentine a one-minute standing ovation in his memory. Ludden fans hoped that the charged emotions created by Valentine’s death would translate into an inspired performance against the team’s biggest rival.
Instead, the Gaelic Knights played the first half in a collective daze, unable to hit any kind of outside shots or get rebounds — even when CBA’s star forward, Mike Goodman, left the game with two early fouls and did not play the rest of the half.
Rich Damico, by himself, had as many points (eight) as Ludden had in the opening period, and it got worse in the second quarter as a 14-3 run left the Gaelic Knights staring at a 33-12 deficit. This left the crowd (even on CBA’s side) as quiet and subdued as could ever be remembered in recent “Holy War” editions.
Even a tongue-lashing by head coach Pat Donnelly during a second-quarter timeout didn’t shake the gloom. Only at the first-half buzzer, when Wendall Williams hit a 3-pointer to make it 33-16, did any glimmer of life appear.
As it turned out, Williams was far from done. By himself, he gave the Gaelic Knights life by hitting a trio of 3-pointers in a span of less than 90 seconds early in the third quarter, making it 35-25 and forcing CBA to worry for the first time all afternoon.
From there, the margin stabilized for a while, but in the fourth quarter Ludden made another run, an 11-2 spurt culminated by Daquan Grobsmith’s steal and lay-up with 2:47 left that made it 47-43.
Following a CBA miss, the Gaelic Knights had a chance to get even closer, but also missed. Goodman and Marcus Sales combined for all eight of the Brothers’ points down the stretch to put the game away.
Williams, in defeat, finished with 21 points to lead both sides, as Grobsmith added 13 points. Sales paced the Brothers with 14 points.
On Tuesday night, Ludden (13-4) played at Phoenix, then has back-to-back weekend games against Utica-Notre Dame and Fowler and will find out on Sunday where it will start the Section III Class A playoffs — all while carrying heavy hearts for the loss of a beloved colleague.
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