The DCU Saints came from 12 points point down to win their first game of the season in a valiant second-half performance in the National Premier League game at the DCU Sports Complex last Saturday.
DCU Saints 73
UCD Marian 70
American Duane Johnson scored 16 second-half points in helping the Saints give UCD Marian their first away defeat of the season.
Johnson’s signing was only officially announced on the Saint’s Facebook page on Friday morning after arriving in Ireland earlier this month.
Johnson collected 26 rebounds and scored 18 points in an inspirational display. “When we play like we did today we feel like we can beat anybody. We could be one of the best teams in the country,” Johnson said shortly after the win.
Saints Head Coach Joey Boylan focused however on the team’s current position and said that, “we got to get out of relegation. We need a second win to get ourselves level with those teams that are just ahead of us and once we get level with them then we can start to push on.”
It was Johnson who got his hand to the first jump-ball only for it to be knocked down to Marian’s Michael Chubb.
The opening score of the match took over a minute to arrive but it came courtesy of Marian’s shooting guard Alex Zurn who drove at the heart of the Saints defence before popping up with the lay-up.
After just a few minutes the Saints brought on Arkadijis Makarenko to replace Martin Neary, and he spurred life into the game as DCU got on top.
Makarenko was fouled in the fifth minute resulting in two converted free-throws. Two minutes later the decision had Saints boss Boylan on his feet arguing with the referees when the Saints weren’t given the benefit of the doubt.
UCD broke down the other end and gained the lead for the first time since the opening score through Dustan Moreira to make it 12-13.
The Saints took the lead once more and in the dying seconds of the first quarter Makarenko converted successive free-throws before Mark Nagle replied for Marian’s to bring it back to just two points.
The opening exchanges in the second quarter were shared by Makarenko and UCD’s Neil Baynes. DCU’s top point scorer this season Eoin Darling then stepped up with a three-pointer to make the game 30-28 in his team’s favour.
Baynes replied for the away side with the first slam-dunk which later showed to be a turning point in the middle quarters as UCD began to pull away.
Marian’s ended the first half with eight unanswered points through Moreira, Baynes and Zurn to put the sides in at 32-40 at the interval.
At the start of the third quarter it seemed that no matter what the Saints threw at the visitors they would just not budge and through the superb Neil Baynes, UCD opened up a double-figured lead and after just five-second-half minutes led by 54-42.
When Saints supporters may have feared the worst, it was Johnson who finally got into the swing of things and had some crowd members off their feet with his fourth rejection of the game.
Suddenly the Glasnevin side were oozing with confidence and despite a rocky start to the penultimate quarter, they remained in arm’s length of their opponents (50-58).
Martin Neary ignited the final surge for the Saints when he landed his three-pointer moments into the quarter while James Harding contribution brought his side back to just a four point deficit.
Marian’s Dan James and Saint’s Harding traded lay-ups before Johnson brought the game back to within two points with under five minutes remaining.
DCU called a time-out however, immediately after Nagle landed a massive long range effort for the south-side club.
The Saints pushed on and even though he was fouled in the proceedings, Johnson leveled the game at 69 all. Baynes and Makarenko converted single free-throws respectively for their sides to set up a tense finish.
Astonishingly, with only 14 seconds remaining, the excellent Makarenko finally put the Saints ahead after landing his fouled jump-shot, he followed it up with a free-throw.
Marian’s buzzer shot attempt failed to the delight of Boylan and his team who have finally opened their account this season.
DCU Saints Team: James Harding(12), Kevin O’Hanlon, Eoin Darling(7), Graham Brannelly(6), Luka Nachbar Cvikl(7), Conor Gilligan, Arkadijs Makarenko(16), Sean Moore, Philip Neary(2), Martin Neary(5), Didzis Lauskis, Duane Johnson (18)
UCD Marian Team: Conor Ross, Conor Meaney(11), Michael Chubb, Mark Nagle(13), Alex Zurn(6), Dan James(9), Barry Drumm, Ciaran Dunne, Neil Baynes(17), Laimonas Jonaitis, Dustan Moreira(14), James Brophy.