Dec 28, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
They celebrated Bishop Ludden’s 2012 state Class B championship at the start of Thursday evening’s opening round of the Rosemary Corcoran Holiday Classic.
A celebration took place at the end, too, only it was the visitors in the happy mood.
That was because Westhill had upended the Gaelic Knights 47-43, giving Ludden its first loss of the season in the latest chapter of a fierce neighborhood rivalry.
“It’s a Westhill-Ludden game, and it’s going to be a fight,” said Westhill head coach Kevin King. “Our kids didn’t back down from it.”
That was especially true of the Warriors’ younger stars. Jordan Roland notched 14 of his 16 points in the second half, and fellow sophomore Jeff Lobello clinched the victory when he sank two free throws with 8.7 seconds left.
In this same gym nearly 12 months ago, Ludden, on its way to that state title, beat Westhill 50-47 on Cameron Littlejohn’s 28-foot shot at the buzzer. That was motivation enough for the Warriors, but circumstances added to the flavor.
Ludden’s move to Class A also meant a switch to the OHSL Freedom division, away from the Warriors’ home in the Liberty division. Thus, the Gaelic Knights’ holiday tournament was the only chance for the two neighbors to get together.
Even with the day’s brutal snows, a large, loud crowd turned out, with full bleachers of students from both schools. They first got to witness Ludden raise its state championship banner from a season ago, placed on the green curtain at the gym’s stage end.
Right from the game’s start, Westhill, with its trademark man-to-man defense, set out to make Ludden work for every single point.
Twice in the first half, the Gaelic Knights tried to get away. Ben Hackett’s five straight points and trio of blocks helped Ludden lead 13-8 after one period, and Dan Kaigler scored eight points in the second period, the lead getting as large as 10 (26-16) at one point.
Only the hot shooting of Tyler Reynolds, who had 11 of his 15 points in the first half, kept the Warriors within sight as everyone else struggled on the offensive end, leaving Westhill behind 26-18 going into halftime.
But in the third quarter, Ludden suddenly went cold, partly due to poor shooting and partly due to Westhill’s relentless physical play. King singled out the likes of Dan Gratien, Kevin Karleski and William Billy for keeping the Gaelic Knights off the board for more than seven minutes.
That allowed the Warriors to catch up and tie it, 29-29, going to the fourth quarter. When Reynolds and Roland opened the final period with back-to-back baskets, the Warriors were up 33-29 and had quieted the fans in green.
Twice, Ludden got the lead back, but both times the Warriors had an answer. Roland, in particular, was sensational, as his four straight free throws, along with a basket with 1:49 left, keyed an 8-0 spurt that put the Warriors in front 43-38.
“Jordan is already a complete offensive player,” said King. “Hopefully he will become a great all-around player, too.”
After the Gaelic Knights cut it to 43-40 on Antoine Montgomery’s putback basket, Roland struck again on a driving lay-up with 55.1 seconds left. Down by five, Ludden cut it to 45-43 with Hackett’s three-point play with 40 seconds to play.
The entire shot clock ran down before Lobello was fouled. His first free throw attempt rattled around the rim and fell. His second shot swished, and moments later Westhill’s students were on the court, celebrating a monumental win.
Somehow, Westhill had to regroup for Friday’s tournament final against Oswego, who held off Syracuse Academy of Science 65-62 in the other opening-round game. Ludden, who got 16 points from Kaigler and 15 points from Hackett, would meet SAS in the consolation game.