SYRACUSE Carthage coach Jeff Ventiquattro stressed to his Comets the importance of playing a full 32 minutes Saturday against the defending Section 3 Class A boys basketball champions.
Not a half, or 25 minutes, but the full four quarters if they hoped to knock off perennial power Bishop Ludden in the Class A semifinals at Onondaga Community Colleges SRC Arena.
Unfortunately for Carthage, it did not fulfill Ventiquattros wishes. Despite playing the Gaelic Knights even for three of the four quarters, the second quarter was the Comets undoing as they fell 62-48.
After third-seeded Carthage (18-2) surprised Bishop Ludden by taking an 18-15 first-quarter lead, the second-seeded Gaelic Knights (18-2) outscored the Comets by 17-4 in the second quarter and never trailed again.w
And despite staying within striking distance and making a late run at the end of the game, Carthage could not sufficiently close the gap and fell in the semifinals for the second straight season.
I feel terrible that we couldnt get past the semifinals again, said Carthage junior Peyton McLaurin, who scored eight points. After the first quarter, we felt like we could play with them. But we just missed too many shots the second quarter, and they got too many easy hoops.
After falling behind 4-0 to begin the game, Carthage finally got going and tied the game at 7-7.
The Comets then went on an 11-6 run to go up by as much as 18-13 before Bishop Ludden trimmed the deficit to 18-15 heading into the second quarter.
We came out in attack mode, moving the ball well and getting good shots, Ventiquattro said. And I thought we did a good job of making them take tough shots to begin the game.
The second quarter, however, was a complete turnaround. Dan Kaigler scored on a follow shot to begin the quarter for Bishop Ludden, Kevin Serotnik hit a 3-pointer and Kaigler scored in the lane to boost the Gaelic Knights into a 22-18 lead.
Carthage missed some makeable inside shots early in the period, and did not get back on the scoreboard until a McLaurin 10-footer dropped with 3:20 left in the quarter.
Keyan Pinnocks two free throws 40 seconds later would be the only other Carthage points of the quarter.
Kaigler, who led all scorers with 23 points, scored eight straight points during one stretch, and Ludden scored the final eight points to assume a 32-22 halftime edge.
Most of our shots that second quarter came off East-West passes, Ventiquattro said. The first quarter we were going North and South and getting more penetration.
Carthage senior Walter Jeter, who scored eight points, said the idea was to attack and stretch out their defense. That worked well the first quarter. I think we got a little tentative the second quarter, and even the good shots wouldnt drop.
Carthage fought back to within 38-32 following a pair of Jake Redmore hoops and two Pinnock free throws with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
But, again, the Comets went cold offensively, and Bishop Ludden scored the last six points to head into the fourth quarter leading 43-32.
Ludden stretched the lead to as much as 53-34 midway through the fourth quarter. But the Comets did not quit, and actually trimmed the deficit to 55-46 with a minute and a half remaining.
However, time ran out on their season as Ludden hit eight free throws over the last 1:35.
Defensively, I thought we really made them work, and mixed and matched the zone and the man-to-man effectively, Ventiquattro said. We also battled them on the boards. But their size, in the end, was a little too much for us.
Pinnock led Carthage with 18 points. Six-foot-3 Ben Hackett and 6-7 Jack Rauch added 12 points each for Ludden, which plays top-seeded Jamesville-DeWitt in next weekends final.
We knew Carthage would be tough, and they came out and took it to us early, said Bishop Ludden coach Pat Donnelly, a SUNY Potsdam graduate. But my kids have a lot of tournament experience, and have played a lot of big games over the last few years. Once we calmed down, ran our offense and started defending better, we took control.
After going 36-4 the last two seasons, Ventiquattro said the Carthage program is where we thought we could be a few years ago. We played in 17 tournaments this past spring and summer, so the kids worked hard to get to this point.