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.