DeWitt Though it took place in the opening days of December, the boys basketball clash Tuesday night between megapowers Bishop Ludden and Jamesville-DeWitt carried the intensity of one with higher stakes a few months down the road.
Of course, the Gaelic Knights and Red Rams could have a post-season rematch - but for now, Ludden, at full strength, had the upper hand over J-D, prevailing 57-45.
As the reigning state Class B champions, the Gaelic Knights were "rewarded" with a promotion to Class A, where the Red Rams' dominance includes the last five Section III titles and four state championships in that span.
Ludden brings back four starters from 2011-12, chief among them star juniors Dan Kaigler and Ben Hackett. It faced a J-D side that was missing two key starters, Rasheed Baker and Jeff Edwards, the latter of whom injured his foot in the Rams' season-opening win over Mexico on Nov. 30.
Each side brought maximum effort from the opening tip. The difference was that, in the first quarter, Ludden made a fair share of baskets, and J-D converted just one, missing everything from close-up looks to 3-pointers that grazed off the rim.
It took less than three minutes for the Gaelic Knights to zoom to an 11-0 lead, seven of the points coming from Hackett. J-D didn't get on the board until the 5:03 mark with Jafar Kinsey's driving lay-up, and it would spend the rest of the night in a perpetual chase.
Midway through the second quarter, the margin had grown to 25-7 as Kaigler heated up. He had nine points in that period, and though Kinsey matched that total to kick-start the Rams' attack, J-D still trailed 32-17 at the break.
Propelled again by Kaigler and Hackett, Ludden would constantly build that lead in the third quarter, and early in the final period had a 49-27 cushion.