Mar 16, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Though it only lasted a few minutes, it was a stretch of basketball that cost Bishop Ludden’s boys a chance at back-to-back state championships.
A close battle with McKinley (Section VI) in Saturday’s state Class A semifinal at Glens Falls Civic Center turned when the Macks went on a 21-2 run in the third quarter, eventually beating the Gaelic Knights 75-61.
After winning the state Class B title in 2012, Ludden, with much of its lineup back, was moved up to Class A, yet still found its way back to the state final four, paced again by the junior tandem of Dan Kaigler and Ben Hackett.
The Gaelic Knights had the advantage of state tournament experience. But McKinley, a school from the city of Buffalo, was on a post-season roll, having blasted another private-school power, Rochester Aquinas, 79-52 in its regional final to get to Glens Falls.
Right from the start, McKinley aimed to push the tempo, including full-court pressure. But Hackett drove right through it for eight points in the first quarter, helping Ludden overcome an early 12-7 deficit. Kaigler was productive, too, sinking a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter to briefly put the Gaelic Knights in front 19-16.
When the Macks reclaimed the lead in the second period, it was, again, Hackett and Kaigler sinking key baskets that kept Ludden close, as it only trailed 32-30 at the break. Already, Hackett had 13 points and Kaigler had contributed nine points.
Kaigler reached double figures early in the third period, answering a McKinley conversion to cut it to 34-32. But Ludden had no idea how badly things would turn.
Over the next six minutes, McKinley did everything right, forcing turnovers and converting them into all sorts of baskets, from driving lay-ups to 3-pointers. By the time the run was completed, the Gaelic Knights found itself trailing 55-34 late in the quarter.
Simply put, McKinley was more comfortable with the faster pace, and would finish by hitting 58.4 percent of its shots (31-for-53), while the Gaelic Knights, forced to speed up as it fell further behind, would only manage to make 36.5 percent (19-for-52) of its attempts.
Still, there was just enough time for Ludden to try to recover. Hackett and Kaigler hit baskets late in the period to start the Gaelic Knights off on a 19-8 run that cut the deficit in half, to 63-53, with more than five minutes to play.
It would get no closer, though. After an exchange of 3-pointers, Lovell Smith’s basket made it 68-56, and McKinley’s defense made that double-digit margin stick in the final minutes as an injury to forward Jack Rauch made Ludden’s task even tougher.
Hackett finished with 21 points, while Kagler had 20 points. Antoine Montgomery and Cameron Littlejohn each had seven points.
For McKinley, who advanced to face Burke Catholic in the state Class A final, Smith led the way with 23 points, while Marcus Morris drained five 3-pointers to account for most of his 21 points. Samuel Smith got 10 points.
Ludden’s weekend was not over, though. On Sunday, many of the Ludden faithful would stay in Glens falls as head coach Pat Donnelly was inducted into the New York State Coaches Hall of Fame, on St. Patrick’s Day, exactly one year to the day after the Gaelic Knights topped Watervliet in the 2012 state final.
This is still a young team. Though Littlejohn, Montgomery and Cory Poplawski graduate, Kaigler, Hackett, Rauch, Zach Walser and Kyle Hawk return in 2013-14, with two Glens Falls trips behind them, looking for a third.