Letterkenny Blaze U18 Men’s team have secured a place in this year’s National Finals to be held in the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght on January 25th.
Having made the long journey to Cork last weekend to play local team Fr Mathews, in the Neptune Stadium, the Letterkenny lads came away with a narrow 4 point victory.
This was always going to be a close game between two well drilled teams and despite the fact that Cork’s basketball journalist John Coughlan was tipping Blaze to come out easy winners, nothing was being taken for granted by the Letterkenny team.
Letterkenny settled early with the first basket of the day coming from Matthew Deeney and this was quickly followed by a 3 pointer by Andrew McGeever. Fr Mathews replied with scores of their own by Pineda and Lynch. The first quarter saw further scores coming from Mark Thornton, Cian & Tadhg Hickey however Fr Mathews worked the ball well inside to their big men and went in at the end of the first quarter 2 points up with a 23-21 score line.
The second quarter belonged to Letterkenny as they kept Fr Mathews to 7 points and amassed 17 points of their own through a good mixture of outside shooting and driving to the hoop by international players Cian & Tadhg Hickey along with Andrew McGeever. This meant that Letterkenny went in at halftime with a lead of 8 points at 38 – 30.
Just as the second quarter belonged to Letterkenny, the third quarter belonged to Fr Mathews as it was their turn to hold the lads from Blaze to 7 points and rack up 14 points of their own. Ten of these points came from Jack O’Mahoney having been held to only 2 for the first two quarters. Even though the Cork side dominated the third quarter they were unable to regain the lead and Letterkenny went into the last quarter with a one point advantage on a score of 45 – 44.
The last quarter of this game was a demonstration of quality basketball from both teams and brought the large crowd to their feet as scores were traded on both sides of the court. There was 5 three point scores in the final quarter with 2 from Fr Mathews and 3 from Blaze through Andrew McGeever, Cian Hickey & Tadhg Hickey. Some fantastic rebounding by Matthew Deeney and Peter Lynch on the defence and offensive boards helped Letterkenny hold the ball to help run down the clock and allow Letterkenny Blaze run out narrow winners with the final score of 71 – 67.
Speaking after the game one of the Letterkenny coaches, Ian McGeever, praised his players for coming through a tough game with a very strong Cork team.
“We knew we had to come here and play well as Fr Mathews are a very good team and it was always going to be a game that could have went either way.
“We are delighted to have come out on top today and one of the big differences was our ability to put the ball in the basket from the free throw line amassing 12 points against 4 from Fr Mathews.
“Our players also played at least 6 inches bigger than their height, winning rebounds of our own boards and the opposition boards providing valuable recycled ball leading to second chance opportunities.”
Ian and his fellow coach Mark Cannon expressed their thanks to the large crowd that made the long journey to Cork who nullified the impact and matched the noise levels of the 300 supporters for the local Fr Mathews side.
They also thanked Fr Mathews for a good competitive game that was always played in the right spirits by both teams, in what was deemed the game of the day by Basketball Ireland.
Next up for Letterkenny is a match up with Templeogue in the final on the 25th of January in Dublin and we wish them every success.