East Syracuse Though it had some nervous late moments, the Bishop Ludden boys basketball team’s 57-51 victory over previously unbeaten Cortland last Friday night had value beyond simply knocking off a fellow Class A title contender.
Aided by that win, the Gaelic Knights rose to the no. 1 spot in the latest state Class A rankings. Ludden was no. 3 the week before, but the teams ranked ahead of them, Springfield Gardens (from New York City) and Byram Hills (Section I), both lost, opening the door for Ludden’s ascension.
At first, the Gaelic Knights were to have a 10-day break following the Cortland game, but to relieve a crowded early schedule, it moved a game against East Syracuse-Minoa, scheduled for Dec. 13 (one night before it faced CBA), to last Monday night.
So Ludden took the court just hours after receiving that no. 1 ranking, and were close to perfect in the first quarter on its way to beating the Spartans 60-41.
Any game against ESM provides extra motivation, since Ludden head coach Pat Donnelly led the Spartans before returning to his alma mater in 1987.
The Gaelic Knights jumped all over the Spartans, applying defensive pressure in the opening period and converting often on the other end, not stopping until it had picked up a 20-4 lead.
Even though that pace couldn’t be maintained, Ludden nursed that margin the rest of the night, not allowing the lapse that nearly proved costly against Cortland.
Ben Hackett led the way, pouring in 21 points and adding six rebounds and three assists. Dan Kaigler, held to eight points, made up for it with eight rebounds and four blocks as Zach Walser also got eight points. Jack Rauch (seven points) and Cory Poplawski (six points) were close behind.
So Ludden has a 12-1 record going into next Monday’s game against Albany Academy. After a rematch with ESM, the Gaelic Knights will face Bishop Grimes on Jan. 26 at Onondaga Community College’s SRC Arena as part of the Hoops for the Hospital Classic, a girls-boys doubleheader that starts at 6 p.m.
Funds raised from these games will benefit the “More than a Game” Foundation, which services the Upstate Cancer Center at Golisano Children’s Hospital.