Onondaga After dispatching Cortland in a tight 54-51 decision Sunday, the Bishop Ludden boys basketball team is headed from Onondaga Community College's SRC Arena to the Carrier Dome in search of a second consecutive Section III title.
This time, though, the Gaelic Knights are looking to make the (Class) A grade, this after claiming the state Class B title a season ago.
As it has done so many times this season, Ben Hackett and Dan Kaigler guided Ludden to victory with key plays in the game’s final minutes.
Ludden had been in front from the opening tip, but nursing a 46-45 lead with 3:18 to play in the fourth quarter, the Ludden bench got hit with a technical foul.
Cortland’s Isaiah Prior hit both free throws, followed by a Brian Hughes shot that Hackett goaltended, giving the Purple Tigers a 49-46 lead.
Then Hackett hit two free throws and stole the ball on Cortland’s next possession, feeding Antoine Montgomery a long pass for the breakaway layup and a 50-49 lead with under two minutes to go.
Prior put home the last two of his game-high 27 points with 1:05 remaining to put the Gaelic Knights’ season in doubt.
Coming off a timeout, and with just 38 seconds on the clock, Hackett had the ball and a clear message from head coach Pat Donnelly.
“When I got the ball I heard coach say go” Hackett said. “I just went and scored.”
Hackett converted a difficult layup for two of his team-high 22 points, and to put Ludden back out in front 52-51. But Hackett left ample time for the Purple Tigers to get a final shot.
Enter the 6-foot-6 Kaigler. Despite contributing 14 points, it was his defense that made the difference as Hughes, with the ball at the top of the key, found daylight as he drove left and headed for the basket.