The End of an Era: Donnelly, Wleklinski conclude historic rivalry with wild OT finish

Bishop Ludden's Pat Donnelly and CBA's Buddy Wleklinski share a laugh prior to Tuesday night's game on the west side of Syracuse.

Bishop Ludden and Christian Brothers Academy have always been rivals on the basketball court.

Pat Donnelly and Buddy Wleklinski have been around for plenty of it.

However, after Tuesday night's matchup from Bishop Ludden high school, it would be Donnelly's final regular season meeting against Wleklinski.

Donnelly has elected to retire at season's end, making way for Ludden's athletic director, Gallagher Driscoll, to take over next year.

The two teams met in January from Le Moyne College, with the Gaelic Knights winning by 13 points.

On Tuesday night, the Brothers flipped the script.

CBA slowed the game down, milking the shot clock, disallowing the uptempo Gaelic Knights from getting out and running the floor.

With the game tied at 44, the Brothers had a chance to win it in regulation, but Ryan MacKenzie's two three-pointer attempts were off the mark, forcing overtime.

In overtime, CBA's MacKenzie knocked down a three-pointer to tie it at 51.

After a Bishop Ludden foul, CBA's Sean Miller went to the free throw line to put the Brothers on top with eight seconds to go.

However, since the Brothers were not in the bonus, Miller needed to convert on the first attempt in order to attempt another shot.

He missed on the front end, as Ludden's Joe Connor came down with the rebound.

Connor raced ahead into the front court, with time ticking down, forcing up a baseline jumper that sailed over the rim.

But that's when freshman forward Jai Smith was right there to clean it up, scoring the game-winner at the buzzer.

The celebration ensued, and in the end, Donnelly and Wleklinski had written another chapter in a coaching rivalry that spans 30-plus years in the making.

"This morning my phone rings and it's from Columbus, Ohio," Donnelly said following the game,"I'm going, 'I don't know anyone from Columbus, Ohio?' It was Greg Paulus. So Greg Paulus called me today and we talked for about 10-15 minutes, about some of the games we had when he was playing. That's the kind of respect that we have for CBA kids and they have for us."

"I texted Greg [Paulus] last night after their game at Louisville," Wleklinski explained. "He texted back after seeing the [story] online and asked for coach Donnelly's number. In order for there to be a rivalry, there really has to be a mutual respect."

The two coaches were the fiercest of rivals on the court, but ultimately shared the mutual respect that went far deeper than any competition.

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