Mar 24, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
One perk of Bishop Ludden winning the boys basketball Class B New York State Public High School Association championship was that it got one more weekend of action on the court.
The Gaelic Knights took full advantage, going to Albany’s Times Union Center last weekend and making it to the championship round of the Federation tournament.
It began with Friday night’s semifinal, where, led by sophomore Ben Hackett, Ludden beat Nazareth 66-59 in the Federation tournament semifinals.
Hackett, the MVP of the state final four in Glens Falls a weekend ago, managed to improve on this day, pouring in 26 points, including four 3-pointers, as Ludden led from start to finish.
Nazareth, the Catholic High School Athletic Association representative from New York City, was in immediate trouble. Ludden went on a 9-0 run in the first quarter, Hackett pulling off steals on three consecutive possessions that led to seven points on the other end.
Up 20-9 after one period, the Gaelic Knights saw Nazareth cut the margin to 22-17 in the second quarter, but sophomore Dan Kaigler’s inside work (he had 12 of his 14 points in the first half) restored the cushion, and with Kaigler’s big dunk over two Nazareth defenders in the waning seconds, Ludden went to the break with a 32-21 edge.
Opening the second half strong, the Gaelic Knights built a 19-point (44-25) lead, only to relax and have Nazareth reel off 11 unanswered points late in the third quarter.
Once more, though, Ludden would pull away. Hackett added to his total, while Kaigler accumulated six rebounds and seven blocks. And when Nazareth tried to shut the sophomores down, Cameron Littlejohn would hit timely shots, as he finished with 13 points, mostly from four 3-pointers.
Now Ludden faced Collegiate, also from New York City, in Saturday’s Federation final. Collegiate beat Public School Athletic Association champion Pathways 64-54 in the other semifinal and was in pursuit of a fifth consecutive Federation crown.
And the Dutchmen would reach that milestone, though the Gaelic Knights would battle all the way to the end in a 62-52 decision, the team’s first loss since Dec. 28.
Five early points from Matt Rogers, plus a basket from Hackett, offset a pair of Collegiate 3-pointers in the early minutes, and Ludden briefly had a 7-6 lead. But that was the Gaelic Knights’ only lead of the night.
Collegiate quickly went on a 7-0 run of its own and led 15-10 after one period. The two sides exchanged baskets through much of the second quarter until four late points allowed the Dutchmen to stretch the margin to 28-17 at halftime.
Those points ignited a 13-0 outburst that stretched deep into the third period, and before Ludden could regroup, it was 49-24. Ryan Frankel led Collegiate with 19 points, while teammates Connor Huff (15 points) and Willie Gwathmey (10 points) also hit double figures.
Still, the Gaelic Knights spent the entire fourth quarter whittling down the margin. Hackett, named to the All-Tournament team, managed 17 points, while Kaigler, bothered all night by the defense of Huff and fellow forward Mark Jazbik, had to work for his 13 points and eight rebounds before fouling out.
Rogers also stood out, managing 12 points in his last high-school game. He, along with reserve Nick Walker, are the only graduating seniors from a Ludden side that went 23-3 and earned the team’s second NYSPHSAA title, to go with its crown in 1994.
The fact that Kaigler, Hackett, Littlejohn, Zach Walser, Ben Rath, John Rauch, Kyle Hawk and Zach Harding return for 2012-13 makes the Gaelic Knights an instant favorite to earn Section III and state honors again, though it will face the pressure to succeed that it never really had to worry about on the way to this season’s glory.