As St. Patrick's Day winds down, the Bishop Ludden boys basketball team, with green uniforms and "Gaelic Knights" as its nickname, will chase the program's second state championship.
A monstrous second half from sophomore forward Dan Kaigler broke a close contest open and helped Ludden defeat Section VI champion Olean 60-44 in Friday night's state Class B semifinal at Glens Falls Civic Center.
With the win, the Gaelic Knights advance to Saturday night's 9 p.m. title game, hoping to add another state crown to the won in claimed in Class C in 1994. Ludden would play Watervliet (Section II), who used a last-second basket to knock off defending champion Burke Catholic 48-47 in the other state semifinal.
Olean, like Ludden, was a team that relied on youth - four sophomores in the starting lineup. Yet neither side showed youthful nerves in a tightly-played first half.
Ludden, trailing 10-6 in its first state final-four appearance in 11 years, rolled off six straight points, all from Kaigler and fellow sophomore Ben Hackett, to move in front.
But Kaigler picked up his second foul late in the period, and in his absence, Olean, who entered the game no. 1 in the state Class B rankings, bounced back and took a 14-12 lead to the second quarter.
With Hackett only hitting one field goal the rest of the half and Kaigler staying on the bench, other Ludden players arrived to help as the lead changed hands 10 times, with three ties.
Kyle Hawk and Cameron Littlejohn both hit timely 3-pointers, the latter of them gave the Gaelic Knights a slim 23-22 lead going to the break. Just as importantly, Zach Walser and Jack Rauch combined for six rebounds, allowing Ludden to remain respectable inside.
When Kaigler returned in the third quarter, he took charge, getting seven points as the Gaelic Knights, with an 11-4 run, went ahead for good. Better still, the Huskies' own inside star, 6-7 sophomore Sam Eckstrom, went to the bench with four fouls.