Mar 02, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Seeing a 3-point shot fall early in the game is nice. Seeing a flurry of them go through the net can prove quite disheartening to an opponent – especially when the guys taking the shots are not known for outside proficiency.
That’s what the Bishop Ludden boys basketball team did to Jamesville-DeWitt in Saturday’s Section III Class A final at the Carrier Dome, Kyle Hawk and Ben Hackett unleashing an outside barrage that no one anticipated and riding it all the way to an impressive 76-49 victory over Jamesville-DeWitt for its third consecutive sectional championship.
“We felt pressure all year long to repeat,” said Ludden head coach Pat Donnelly. “To do so is a great relief.”
The Gaelic Knights had every reason to respect J-D, not just for its legacy of six state championships, but also because the Red Rams had pushed Ludden hard in a 62-53 victory back on Jan. 10.
J-D had not lost a game since, relying on a deep lineup and a fast tempo to wear down opponents. The thought going into this game was that the Rams would try to do the same in the face of Ludden’s big frontcourt.
But Hackett said that, in the week leading up to the game, Donnelly and the coaches emphasized the importance of hitting outside shots to counter any J-D attempt to pack it in and double-team Ludden’s forwards, especially Dan Kaigler.
That plan worked in a way that even the Gaelic Knights, even in its most optimistic projections, could not have imagined.
Ludden went through every conceivable emotion during a wild first half, from the ecstasy of seeing Hawk and Hackett hit seven 3-pointers in the first quarter to seeing its junior forward, Jack Rauch, go down with an ankle injury late in the second quarter.
With J-D laying back in a zone, Hawk and Hackett kept getting wide-open looks, and kept converting, more than doubling Ludden’s average of 3-point conversions in just the first six minutes. All of that created a 26-13 lead – without Kaigler earning a single point.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” said Hawk. “But they (J-D) kept doubling down, and (Kaigler) draws a lot of attention.”
As for Hackett, who had undergone some late-season struggles, he said the key to taking on a larger role was “not getting my head down and just playing my own game.”
Donnelly said that, once those shots went down, “it changed the whole complexion of the game”, and forced J-D into a catch-up mode the rest of the way.
Early in the second quarter, Kaigler got four straight points and, on the defensive end, made an emphatic block on Jafar Kinsey’s drive to the basket.
A 10-0 run had Ludden in front, 36-17, but J-D, who had not scored for more than five minutes, picked up full-court pressure, and that, combined with Rauch’s injury, rattled the Gaelic Knights, who were blanked for the last 4:41 of the half after Hawk’s fifth 3-pointer.
Hawk was so hot that he even made a half-court shot banked off the glass – but after the horn for halftime, which left the Gaelic Knights ahead 36-25, but still needing to regroup.
And it would do so with defense, challenging J-D on every possession and not allowing a field goal in the first five-plus minutes of the third quarter. In the meantime, Hawk and Hackett both added to their totals and, in Rauch’s absence, Kevin Sierotnik and Jude DeSilvio each hit crucial baskets.
All of this combined to keep the Rams from making any sort of concerted run. So did the struggles of Kinsey, who finished with 17 points, but never found any sort of consistent rhythm in his last high-school game before heading to Robert Morris University.
By contrast, Hackett, named the tournament MVP, finished with 24 points and Hawk got 20 points, while Kaigler, even in a rare supporting role, finished with 14 points, the Gaelic Knights’ senior trio powering a championship effort.
And now it’s back to the state Class A tournament, with Ludden playing Massena Wednesday night at Cicero-North Syracuse High School in the opening regional round. Two wins in regional play are needed for the Gaelic Knights to return to Glens Falls Civic Center for the March 15-16 state final four.
All the experience gained from a state Class B title won in 2012, and a Class A state semifinal appearance in 2013, might prove valuable here, said Hackett.
“We know what we have to do to get there,” he said.