Donnelly reached 399 career wins Dec. 26 in the opening round of the Rosemary Corcoran Holiday Tournament. The first attempt at 400 went astray when Ludden lost the Dec. 27 final to St. Peter's (Staten Island), but it also proved to be fortuitous.
Originally, the Gaelic Knights were set to face ESM on Dec. 19, but it got snowed out. By playing two weeks later, it allowed Donnelly to get his career milestone at the expense of his one-time employer.
But it proved far from easy. ESM, despite an 0-8 mark, had gone through many close calls, so it wasn't scared one bit by Ludden. It stayed close throughout the first half and, early in the third quarter, the Gaelic Knights and Spartans were locked in a 29-29 tie.
Then John Rooney, quiet for most of the night, hit a 3-pointer, launching a 9-0 run that pushed Ludden ahead for good. ESM never gave up, pulling back within four, 52-48, at one point in the fourth quarter, but it would not get closer.
Much of that was due to Smith and Montgomery. Controlling the paint, Smith poured in 28 points and added 18 rebounds. When the Spartans tried to contain Smith, Montgomery popped open, as he finished with 27 points. Tyler Dattmore (14 points) and Greg Raab (11 points) led ESM's attack.
Donnelly said that, as great as the 400th win was, it was more important to look ahead and get win no. 401 on Tuesday, when Ludden visits Mexico. That, plus a Friday visit from Cortland, precedes the first "Holy War" of the season with archrival CBA Sunday at 2:30 at LeMoyne College.