What preceded the CBA clash was a pair of OHSL Freedom division tests, each carrying their own degree of difficulty since Smith was out.
First, the Gaelic Knights visited Mexico last Tuesday night, and the game turned into a grinding affair where Ludden had to play strong defense to beat the Tigers 51-44.
Neither side made any kind of sustained run in the first half, leaving Ludden to cling to a 20-18 edge at the break. But it all turned in the third quarter, when the Gaelic Knights kept Mexico in check, outscoring them 14-5.
The defense allowed Ludden to feel its way through its first game without Smith to rely on. Montgomery stepped up for 19 points, eight of them from free throws, while Rooney earned 12 points. Osbourne (eight points) and Jared Littlejohn (six points) helped, too.
Back home Friday night, Ludden met Cortland, who was 6-5 but fuming after getting beat by 0-9 East Syracuse-Minoa earlier in the week.
Still, Ludden put together a gritty effort, rallying from a halftime deficit, then hanging on in the end to beat the Purple Tigers 48-44.
Through a low-scoring first half, neither side could produce much, but Cortland edged in front, 21-18, and made the home fans worry.
Ludden made perfect adjustments, though, and dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Purple Tigers 16-5, then fending off Cortland's late charge.
It took great outside shooting. All of Rooney's 15 points came from five successful 3-pointers, while Montgomery hit three times beyond the arc on his way to 19 points. This negated the work of Cortland's Trevor Williamson, who led both sides with 21 points.
Much of this goodwill dissipated after the CBA defeat, but Ludden is still 8-3 going into Tuesday's game at Chittenango and would be favored again Friday against Phoenix, whether Smith is back or not.