SYRACUSE True, the Bishop Ludden boys basketball team has a lot of ambitious goals ahead, not the least of which is a Section III Class B title for which it is now the odds-on favorite.
But the Gaelic Knights, no. 13 in the latest state Class B rankings, were still quite satisfied in the wake of Tuesday night's 75-60 victory over Bishop Grimes that clinched the outright OHSL Liberty National division regular-season championship.
"It means an awful lot," said Ludden head coach Pat Donnelly. "We still put value in a league championship. Whatever else happens (this season), they can't take away from us."
Grimes came into this game still with a chance to share the league title. To do so, it had to avenge a 63-53 defeat to the Gaelic Knights back on Jan. 6 in East Syracuse, and pull it off on Ludden's Senior Night, where departing players Matt Rogers and Nick Walker were honored before the game.
Yet it was a pair of familiar sophomore that got the Gaelic Knights started in the right direction.Ben Hackett steadily accumulated 11 points in the first half, keying an 11-0 run late in the first quarter that put Ludden ahead 18-7.
Dan Kaigler, meanwhile, had 10 first-half points, including a steal and dunk that drew the night's biggest roar in the second quarter. But after Kaigler drew his third foul late in the half, the Gaelic Knights saw its advantage disappear.
Grimes junior guard Casey Evans took over. In the last two minutes of the half alone, he scored three baskets, the last on a steal and lay-up in the waning seconds that allowed the Cobras to go to the break with a 34-33 lead.
Hackett really took over in the third quarter, amassing 12 of his career-high 28 points there. Constantly, Ludden overcame Grimes' full-court pressure and, thanks to sharp passes from Rogers and Cameron Littlejohn, found Hackett open for backdoor lay-ups.