SYRACUSE They saved the best of the boys basketball Peppino's Invitational for the end - two high-quality games involving four high-profile programs, and even the two sides that lost did not walk away too disappointed.
Late on Saturday afternoon at Henninger High School, reigning state Class B champion Bishop Ludden held off Fayetteville-Manlius 70-67. A couple of hours later, Christian Brothers Academy's late comeback attempt fell just short in a 67-63 defeat to Henninger.
F-M enters the 2012-13 season boasting sky-high expectations. Four starters - John Schurman, Tomer Nesher, Jake Wittig and T.J. Wheatley - return for the Hornets from a team that lost a narrow 54-48 decision to Henninger in last year's Section III Class AA semifinal.
For its first assignment, F-M drew Ludden, and at first had little trouble solving the Gaelic Knights, roaring out to a 22-12 lead early in the second quarter, even with Wheatley unable to start due to illness and Schurman struggling from the field.
But when the Hornets cooled off in the second quarter (and Wittig went to the bench with a second foul), Ludden caught up, led by junior guard Ben Hackett, who poured in 15 first-half points, leading to a 29-29 halftime tie.
Hackett continued to roar in the third quarter, as he and Kyle Hawk, who hit a pair of 3-pointers, keyed a 14-2 run that gave the Gaelic Knights a 43-31 edge. For the game, Hackett would finish with 27 points, while fellow junior Dan Kaigler had to work hard to get his 16 points.
But the Hornets wouldn't go away. While Schurman stayed cold, fellow guard Louis Avellino continued to drain 3-pointers, and Nesher worked his way to 20 points. When Avellino's sixth 3-pointer found the net Ludden's lead was down to four, 62-58, midway through the fourth quarter.