Dec 15, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Seven long seasons of frustration for Bishop Ludden in its boys basketball rivalry against Christian Brothers Academy are at an end.
For the first time since 2005, the Gaelic Knights emerged victorious in the “Holy War”, needing a late surge to shake off the pesky Brothers and prevail 52-41 Friday night in front of a loud, overflow crowd in the Ludden gym.
“CBA is very physical, and they out-toughed us most of the game,” said Ludden head coach Pat Donnelly. “But we made the plays when we had to.”
Never mind that the reigning state Class B champions were favored against a 1-2 CBA side coming off back-to-back losses to Henninger and East Syracuse-Minoa.
When the final buzzer sounded, Ludden’s entire student section spilled out onto the court to join the players and celebrate a win, the first by the Gaelic Knights in this half-century-old series since it ended the high school career of Greg Paulus in the 2005 sectional playoffs.
It was as much a night filled with emotion that went beyond the usual Ludden-CBA parameters. A pre-game prayer mentioned the school shooting tragedy in Connecticut earlier in the day.
And like the first game between the two schools on Nov. 22, 1963, played hours after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, this one served as an escape from the grief, with all the usual signs, chants and cheers from loud student sections from Ludden and CBA.
What they saw was the Gaelic Knights threatening to run away in the first three minutes, bolting out to an 11-2 lead as Dan Kaigler scored seven quick points.
By the time CBA cut the margin to 15-12 at the end of the first quarter, though, it was clear that the Brothers were going to make the Gaelic Knights work all 32 minutes.
“We knew CBA was going to play us hard,” said Donnelly. “These games are never pretty.”
The Brothers’ intense, physical defense took a toll, though, as it caused a series of first-half fouls. Ludden went to the line 19 times and made 16 free throws, the first 15 of them in a row, and gained a 27-22 edge going to the break.
It looked even better for the Gaelic Knights in the third quarter when it stretched the margin to 33-24 and CBA’s center, Dylan Lambert, fouled out. But the Brothers countered with a 9-0 run, capped by Will Brower’s basket, that tied it, 33-33.
From that point, and deep into the fourth quarter, every possession turned into a struggle. Ludden could not get away, but the Brothers couldn’t catch up, either, twice more tying it, 39-39 and 41-41, but missing chances to pull out in front.
Then the Gaelic Knights’ Ben Hackett, quiet for most of the night, used two free throws with 3:19 left to move Ludden ahead for good. Hackett had five of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, while Kaigler finished with 14 points.
A second CBA starter, Charlie Russo, fouled out with 2:21 to play. Still, the Brothers were within a single possession until Cameron Littlejohn, with the shot clock running out, hit a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim twice before dropping through with 1:05 left. It was similar to the shot he hit to clinch Ludden’s win over Fayetteville-Manlius a week earlier.
Brower paced CBA with 10 points, while Jack Pfohl added nine points. Kyle Hawk contributed eight points for the Gaelic Knights, who will go to the Albany area next Saturday to face Watervliet (Section II) in a rematch of last March’s state Class B final.