continued “We stopped pressing and got back quickly,” said Donnelly. “That took one of their weapons away.”
The defense allowed Ludden to move in front for good as Hackett continued to weave his way through the Tartan defense, either converting baskets or drawing contact as he had nine of his game-high 19 points in the third quarter.
“Coach told us to be aggressive,” said Hackett. “We pushed the ball, and I attacked the seams.”
Donnelly said that Hackett’s potential is limitless if he could give a full effort every night.
“We’ve got to get Ben going for 32 minutes,” he said. “When he does, he’s at a different level.”
Despite Kaigler’s three fouls and long spell on the bench, the Gaelic Knights took a 45-38 lead to the fourth quarter. When Kaigler quickly got a fourth foul and, again, had to sit, S-G pounced, pulling within 45-44 with six minutes left.
After an exchange of baskets, Ludden again showed its championship mettle as Hackett and Kaigler both hit key baskets to stretch the lead back to six, 53-47, only to see Dom LeMorta drain a 3-pointer to cut the margin back to three with 2:40 left.
The Tartans would get no closer, though, as other outside shots just would not fall in the homestretch, which allowed the Gaelic Knights to endure a string of missed free throws and still prevail.
Kaigler, through all the defensive attention and limited minutes, still gained 14 points. Littlejohn had 10 of his 11 points in the first half. Crapo led the Tartans, matching Hackett’s total of 19 points.
On Saturday at 10:45 a.m. at Glens Falls Civic Center, Ludden plays Buffalo McKinley (Section VI) in the Class A state semifinal. A win would get the Gaelic Knights to Sunday’s 1:30 title game against Burke Catholic or Amityville.
Donnelly, whose induction ceremony next Sunday (on St. Patrick’s Day, of all things) precedes the state final, said that playing in the morning will not be easy, but added that the team’s experience in state tournament play will help.