Jan 14, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Never in the 45-year history of the “Holy War” has the Christian Brothers Academy boys basketball team enjoyed the kind of success against Bishop Ludden that it is enjoying now.
When the Brothers used a ferocious second-half comeback to prevail over the Gaelic Knights 62-49 last Friday at LeMoyne College, it marked CBA’s sixth consecutive win in the series, something never seen before.
Better yet, it gave the Brothers a 41-40 edge in the overall series — remarkable, given that Ludden, at one point, kept CBA from any victories in this rivalry from 1983 to 1996.
A packed house looked on at LeMoyne as the Brothers used a lethal combination of full-court defensive pressure and a trademark surge by star senior Marcus Sales to turn around what had once been a 14-point deficit.
With CBA riding a 10-game win streak, and Ludden 9-1 (its only blemish a two-point loss to Jamesville-DeWitt on Jan. 5), the “Holy War” had more prestige than in years past — and the playoff-like atmosphere bothered the Brothers at first.
Sales and Mike Goodman both fired up air balls with their first shots, and the Brothers’ attack followed suit for much of the first half, cold from the field as Ludden used five 3-pointers to build a 28-14 edge by the late stages of the first half.
In retrospect, said head coach Buddy Wleklinski, the five points CBA reeled off to close the margin to 28-19 at the break were critical, for it gave his team a needed boost and allowed it to unleash a more aggressive strategy after halftime.
Instead of the normal man-to-man approach, the Brothers came out with a full-court press, determined to contest every inch of space Ludden tried to use.
That heat led to turnovers — and baskets on the other end. In less than four minutes, what was a double-digit deficit became at 35-32 CBA lead, thanks to a run of 13 unanswered points.
Briefly, Ludden regrouped, closing the third quarter on an 8-0 run to go back in front 43-38. All that did, though, was give Sales a chance to take over.
Sales had enjoyed good games against Ludden in the past — but he was never better than now. He began the fourth quarter with back-to-back baskets, then helped on defense as the Brothers forced a 46-46 tie.
Then came the biggest blows of all. On consecutive possessions, Sales got open in the corner for 3-point looks — and made them both, igniting a 12-0 run that all but decided the outcome. Sales finished with 24 points.
Wleklinski said that, early in the game, Sales was trying to force shots, so CBA decided to set up screens that gave Sales wide-open looks — where he capitalized.
All the while, the pressure continued on defense from Sales, Goodman, Mike Hannan, Stefan Thompson, Tim Hornstein, Troy Bullock and Sean Wayne wore Ludden out. Goodman also dominated in the paint, earning 18 points and 18 rebounds.
For CBA, the trick in last Tuesday’s game against Cortland was not to look ahead or get anyone hurt.
On both fronts, the Brothers succeeded, cruising to a 68-45 victory over the Purple Tigers. It outscored Cortland in every quarter of play and stayed in control despite quiet showings from its stars.
Sales led with 14 points, but Goodman had just seven points. Hannan had 11 points, as Bullock (nine points) and Hornstein (eight points) also made solid contribution. Stefan Thompson returned to the lineup after an ankle injury sidelined him for the better part of four games and had three points, all on made free throws.
And after all the tumult of the Ludden game, the Brothers were guaranteed to be lethargic when it returned to LeMoyne less than 24 hours later to meet Fowler in the Coaches vs. Cancer Challenge.
Still, CBA did enough to beat the Falcons 54-36 and make it 12 wins in a row, going on an 18-1 run early in the third quarter to account for much of the margin. Sales hit a trio of 3-pointers in that run and had 11 of his 19 points in that decisive spurt, while Goodman and Hannan earned seven points apiece.
As the Brothers await a Ludden rematch Feb. 1 at Onondaga Community College, it hosts Phoenix Wednesday night.