Cicero Bishop Ludden's boys basketball team found its return to the state Class A playoffs to be a smooth one, at least at the outset.
The Gaelic Knights put four players in double figures as it handled Massena, 71-50, Wednesday night at Cicero-North Syracuse High School to set up a highly-anticipated regional final against unbeaten, state no. 1-ranked Scotia-Glenville this Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.
Given that Ludden had risen back to no. 5 in the state Class A rankings and Massena (16-5) was unranked, the biggest mystery going into the game was not the result, but how the Gaelic Knights' new starter, senior Kevin Sierotnik, would fare.
Junior forward Jack Rauch had injured his ankle late in the first half of last Saturday's Section III Class A final against Jamesville-DeWitt at the Carrier Dome. He was on crutches Wednesday night and wearing a walking boot.
Rauch said that tests revealed high and low ankle sprains, but no ligament damage. He was likely to miss the regional round, but could return if Ludden reaches the state Class A final four in Glens Falls on March 15-16.
But Sierotnik proved an able replacement, scoring his team's first basket against Massena on a 3-pointer. The Red Raiders led for most of the first quarter, but Ludden assumed the lead late in the period, and Sierotnik’s runner just as the period ended to put his side in front 19-14.
An 11-0 run, sparked by Sierotnik and Ben Hackett, who had 10 first-half points before picking up his third foul, gave the Gaelic Knights a cushion, but Massena hung close enough to only trail by nine, 36-27, at halftime.
Determined to end the suspense, Ludden opened the third quarter on a 12-0 run, with Sierotnik sinking another 3-pointer as Zach Walser added a pair of baskets.