SYRACUSE On its first possession of Saturday's Section III Class A boys basketball semifinal at SRC Arena, Carthage's Peyton McLaurin soared up to the rim, the ball rolling gently off his fingertips.
It was met by an emphatic block delivered by Bishop Ludden’s star, Dan Kaigler, which set the tone for the no. 2 seed Gaelic Knights' 62-48 victory over the no. 3 seed Comets.
But it didn’t come as easily as the first possession and final score might indicate- not at first, that is.
Carthage matched the Gaelic Knights step-for-step in the first quarter, leading by as many as five before settling on an 18-15 score at the end of the frame.
“[There were] a little bit of jitters at first,” Kaigler said. “Once we got settled in, we were able to break their zone and score very easily.”
Kaigler did just that, scoring 10 points in the second quarter by himself. On the other side of the ball, Ludden held the Comets without a score until 3:19 was left in the the period. Suddenly, an 18-15 deficit was a 32-22 Ludden lead.
The third quarter was similar to the first, with Ludden just barely outscoring Carthage 11-10, but that was to the Gaelic Knights' advantage, as it 43-32 lead going into the last period proved insurmountable thanks to some sharp free-throw shooting down the stretch. The Gaelic Knights went 10 of 13 from the foul line in the final eight minutes.
Kaigler scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Gaelic Knights to victory. Teammates Jack Rauch and Ben Hackett both chipped in 12 points. The Comets’ lone bright spot was Keyan Pinnock’s 18 points.
The win sends Ludden to the Carrier Dome for its third consecutive sectional final, and as many expected, it will meet no. 1 Jamesville-DeWitt, who beat Cortland 72-54 in the other semifinal.
The Gaelic Knights are an unblemished 3-0 against the Red Rams since moving to Class A one season ago, notably winning 60-52 earlier this year and ending J-D’s season in the sectional Class A quarterfinals in 2012-13.