SYRACUSE Displaying the best and worst aspects of its own game, the Bishop Ludden boys basketball team earned another important victory.
The state no. 3-ranked Gaelic Knights nearly let a big lead slip away before holding off previously unbeaten Cortland, 57-51, Friday night in a highly-anticipated Class A showdown.
Though playing in front of a large and raucous home crowd, Ludden saw an 18-point second half advantage almost completely disappear. The Purple Tigers rallied and took two shots, one for the lead, and the other to tie with just under two minutes left.
But Ludden steadied itself and got big plays when it needed to in the dying moments to improve to 11-1 overall, and 8-0 in Class A play. Cortland, no. 13 in the state rankings, fell to 10-1.
Gaelic Knights coach Pat Donnelly said he’s seen it all before.
“That’s kind of our M.O," Donnelly said. We’re good enough to get out to a big lead but we don’t sustain our intensity. We don’t finish the game.
“To Cortland’s credit they kept coming back,” Donnelly added. “But (Cortland) didn’t change anything. I think we broke down defensively and started getting very lackadaisical with the basketball, not finishing shots and we allowed them to make a run at us. That’s something we have to work on.”
Both teams started slowly. Ludden eventually took a 15-10 lead after one quarter, and the hosts' advantage grew to nine, 29-20, by halftime.
Cameron Littlejohn opened the second half with a 3-point bomb, which fired up his team and the large Ludden student section. Within a minute, the lead was up to 15 points (35-20), and Cortland coach Jeremy Milligan was forced to use a timeout.
Whatever Milligan said didn’t immediately register. The Gaelic Knights kept the pressure on, running its advantage to 40-22 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.