Jan 02, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In the last two years, Bishop Ludden and Auburn have both achieved the ultimate kind of success with state championships — on the football field, anyway.
Of course, the Gaelic Knights and Maroons can play a little basketball, too. Combined, the two teams were 13-1 — Ludden at 7-0, Auburn at 6-1 — as they met in Friday night’s final of the 28th Rosemary Corcoran Holiday Classic in Geddes.
Here, Ludden’s undefeated run nearly ended — but with a bit of second-half home-court comeback magic, the Gaelic Knights beat the Maroons 58-53.
It proved to be one of the season’s most intense games — on a par with, if not greater than, Ludden’s escape against Fowler a week earlier. Here, the Gaelic Knights were constantly on the brink of disaster and losing its composure, but kept on working.
Auburn led nearly the entire way, scoring the game’s first six points and going up 15-4 before Ludden could settle down. The course of action so frustrated head coach Pat Donnelly that he drew a technical fall.
Led by tournament MVP Wendall Williams, who had 10 of his 15 points in the first half, the Gaelic Knights began to inch back by quarter’s end, then maintained a striking distance for the rest of the half before going to the break with a 27-21 deficit.
Again, Auburn threatened to run away in the third quarter, building its margin back up to 11, 36-25. Again, the fierce, physical nature of the game nearly got out of hand, leading Daquan Grobsmith to draw a technical foul.
And again, Ludden would rally. With Grobsmith cooling off on the bench, sophomore John Rooney would run the show and lead a 15-4 run that closed the period and forged a 40-40 tie with one period to play.
Several times in the fourth quarter, the Gaelic Knights had chances to go in front, only to get thwarted. Auburn built a 50-45, but watched as two starters, Damien Whitaker and Jimmy Pitts, got into foul trouble, and also watched a series of missed free throws keep Ludden close.
Finally, with 2:07 to play, Connor Sweeney’s lay-up gave the Gaelic Knights its first lead of the night, 52-51, and Grobsmith followed with a clutch basket in the final minute. A trio of successful free throws by Rooney sealed the victory — and kept Ludden perfect.
Aside from Williams, Grobsmith was the top scorer with 11 points, including a trio of 3-point field goals. Rooney finished with 10 points, as Sweeney got nine points, Frank Smith eight points and Kevin Roy five valuable points off the bench. Pitts, in defeat, led Auburn with 19 points and joined teammate Dave Foltz (11 points) on the All-Tournament team.
Getting to the final was simple enough. Ludden used everyone on its roster last Thursday in a 67-33 opening-round romp over Stamford, from Ontario.
Using just eight players, Stamford actually owned a 10-8 lead late in the first quarter. But once head coach Pat Donnelly went to his bench, the flood began, as Ludden went on a 20-2 run without its starters for the rest of the first half to take charge.
Rick Montgomery got extended minutes and led his side with 11 points, with Rooney close behind as he got 10 points. Sweeney and Chris Humez put up eight points apiece, with Vince Sojda adding six points.
This came after Auburn outscored Markham Prep 85-51, a game where Foltz put up 25 points and three of his teammates –Pitts, Malcom Bryant (12 points each) and Whitaker (11 points) — also reached double figures.
Markham would make a mark in the consolation game win against Stamford, as forward Adam Folker scored 44 points, setting a new tournament record. Jermaine Grant (Rice, New York City) set the old mark of 43 points in 1992.
So Ludden enters the new year with an 8-0 mark, but a big test looms Saturday night against Jamesville-DeWitt as the Gaelic Knights try and figure out a way to contain Brandon Triche and the potent Red Rams attack.
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