MAGICAL Mario Garcia lit up An Danlann as LYIT Donegal booked a place in the semi-finals of the Hula Hoops Presidents National Cup.
LYIT Donegal 83 Tolka Rovers 73
By Chris McNulty at An Danlann
In front of a big home crowd, LYIT Donegal saw off Tolka Rovers from Dublin, with ten points to spare as they advanced to the last four.
Spanish recruit Garcia scored 24 points in his best performance of the season so far.
Garcia, who hails from Malaga, is studying English in Letterkenny and led the Dubliners on a merry dance with a superb final quarter.
It was a day when LYIT Donegal – who are having an excellent campaign in the League – were never behind.
Tolka Rovers did come to within four points at one stage in the third quarter, but Niall McDermott’s hosts never seemed in doubt.
Leading 53-42 at half-time, LYIT Donegal let their opponents back in the third passage.
However, by the close of that period, Garcia had sped to help open a 67-55 margin.
Manny Payton, the October Player of the Month, top scored for LYIT Donegal with 27.
A wonderful three-pointer from Garcia raised the roof from the vocal home support – an attendance that some other sports in the county would cry out for – in the fourth.
In the final 90 seconds, Garcia landed another brilliant blow, adding the extra point for good measure. His arrival to Letterkenny came with the promise that he would be the quickest player in the League – and the diminutive Spaniard has lived up to his billing.
Payton and Dom Uhl, LYIT Donegal’s 6’9” tower, set them on their way inside the opening two minutes, when they surged 7-0 ahead.
Garcia’s wizardry and glue-like control helped widen a 25-15 deficit in the opening quarter.
Andrew McGeever, back in his home town colours this year after a spell with Super League side Killester, hit a couple of brilliant baskets from the perimeter as the home team took control.
Tim Doyle, Mark Blanchfield and Justin Goldsbrough helped keep the scoreboard ticking for Tolka Rovers, but the home side continued to purr.
McGeever bagged three to put 14 points in it at one stage, but the visitors crept back in the third, led by Blanchfield’s quick fire double.
It was a little test of the mettle, but Garcia flicked on the afterburners and LYIT Donegal had a 12-point buffer heading for the final ten minutes.
Now, they have a semi-final to plot for in January.
LYIT Donegal: Manny Payton 27, Mario Garcia 24, Dom Uhl 17 Andrew McGeever 11, Charlie McKinney 4
Tolka Rovers: Paul Caffrey 15, Mark Blanchfield 14, Cillian O’Driscoll 11, Tim Doyle, Justin Goldsbrough 10, Oisin O’Reilly, Conor Liston 4, Tom Kenny 4,Tags: