Mar 18, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Not far from Tipperary Hill on Syracuse’s west side sits Bishop Ludden Junior/Senior High School – and barely an hour before midnight on St. Patrick’s Day, there was another reason for the neighborhood to celebrate.
The Gaelic Knights, who start two sophomores and a freshman, earned the second state boys basketball championship in program history, holding off Section II champion Watervliet 43-42 at Glens Falls Civic Center.
Once ahead by 14 points in the second half, Ludden did not fully secure the crown until Watervliet’s last, desperation shot from beyond mid-court fell way short. The players and Ludden students present celebrated at mid-court as these Gaelic Knights joined their 1994 predecessors in going all the way to the summit.
So ended a fierce contest full of mistakes on both sides. Ludden, for its part, committed 25 turnovers, the primary reason why it nearly lost control after gaining a 32-18 lead early in the third quarter.
With the margin down to one, 41-40, Cameron Littlejohn, who finished with 12 points, converted both ends of a one-and-one with 33.8 seconds. Then Dan Kaigler fouled the Cannoneers’ Jordan Gleason taking a 3-pointer with 19.2 seconds left, and Gleason made two of the ensuing foul shots to move the margin back to one, 43-42.
Kaigler, fouled with 16.8 seconds left, missed the front end of a one-and-one. Now Watervliet, who had not led all night, had a chance to win it, only to turn the ball over on a drive to the basket.
Senior point guard Matt Rogers threw deep to Kaigler, who was again fouled with two seconds to play. Though Kaigler missed both attempts, the Cannoneers had time for nothing other than the long-distance heave that was never close.
That it was Ludden’s defense forcing the key last-second turnover was not surprising, given how they had played so well in the early stages. The Gaelic Knights employed a triangle-and-two set and held Watervliet without a point for the game’s first four minutes, setting the tone as it moved in front 8-0.
And the defense remained strong all night, limiting Watervliet to 24.1 percent (14-for-58) shooting. The Cannoneers tried 25 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, but only made two of them.
On the other end, with the Cannoneers bent on containing the sophomore tandem of Kaigler and Ben Hackett, Littlejohn and Rogers combined for nine points in the second quarter, helping the Gaelic Knights go to the break with a 24-16 edge.
Eight total points from Kaigler and Hackett stretched the margin to 30-16 early in the third quarter. But when Hackett picked up his fourth foul, Watervliet started dominating on the boards – and that, combined with Ludden’s rash of turnovers, led to a 10-0 run that closed the period.
From there, it turned into a tense chase. The Gaelic Knights were unable to pull away, but the Cannoneers never caught up, either, and in the end Ludden made one fewer mistake, the tiny margin that made all the difference.
Hackett, who gained 14 points in the final, earned tournament MVP honors, while Kaigler finished with seven points and joined Hackett on the All-Tournament team. Gleason led both sides with 16 points.
Ludden, who is 22-2, is not done yet. It now heads to Albany’s Times Union Center for next weekend’s state Federation championships, meeting the Catholic High School Athletic Association winner Friday at 5 p.m. The final is Saturday at 5:45.
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