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Ludden rallies past Auburn, goes to 8-0

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.

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