All the anticipation for the Bishop Ludden girls basketball team's 2009-10 season may have been justified in the course of a single night.
Making the first big statement of the season, the Gaelic Knights went to tiny Buckley Gym last Tuesday night and knocked off defending Section III Class B champion Cazenovia 57-53.
Head coach Jill Petroffski has something close to an ideal situation this winter. Every player is back from a team that went 15-6 last winter before falling to South Jefferson in the Class B-1 semifinals. This includes the primary rotation of Ashley Cianfriglia, Bella Knapp, Michelle Roesch, Natalie Barletta, Kristen Ryan and Kayla Kibling.
Sizing up the other Class B contenders, South Jefferson also has everyone back, but other top teams saw big stars depart -- Carly Cooper from Westhill, Lauren Conway from Clinton and Liz McGinley from Canastota.
And that was true for Cazenovia, too. Kiley Evans and Kassie Kleine both graduated, taking away the defensive cornerstones of the Lakers' championship run -- something that Ludden would exploit, especially on the perimeter, in an exciting opener.
The Gaelic Knights saw a 14-9 first-quarter lead disappear before halftime. Cazenovia, leaning heavily on the inside play of forwards Ashley Stec and Ellen Burr, controlled the second quarter and took a 24-23 lead to the break.
But in the third quarter, the hot shooting of Cianfriglia, Kibling and Knapp pushed Ludden back in front for good, and it would match everything Stec and Burr in the final minutes.
Cianfriglia had 20 points, most of it from four 3-pointers. Knapp had 10 points, while Barletta and Kibling each had eight points. Ryan (six points) and Roesch (five points) gave Ludden the depth to overcome the efforts of Stec, who had 21 points, and Burr, who added 15 points.