With just five seconds left on the clock, you could have heard a pin drop in UCD Sports Hall on Saturday evening.
Five seconds can be the longest time in a basketball game, but for Garvey’s Tralee Warriors, it was five seconds where players became leaders, and two free throw shots carved a historic victory for the Kingdom. Trae Pemberton was standing at that free throw line – a player who had already netted 35 points for Tralee during a game that had everything; thrills, dunks, blocks, super shooting and above all, the comeback of all comebacks.
The crowd had packed into the hall for a game that lived up to – and exceeded – the promise of its billing. Third place UCD Marian faced off to the warriors of Tralee and from early on, it looked like Ioannis Liapakis’ charges had the better of proceedings. Blocking off Pemberton early on, the frustration of not having the freedom of the key to shoot could have annoyed any other player but as already stated, Saturday night was a night where players became leaders and Pemberton, Kieran Donaghy and Dusan Bogdanovic took that leadership mantle firmly.
Trailing 25-16 at the end of the first quarter, and indeed, trailing the whole way up to the start of the fourth quarter, it took serious belief to drive on a Kerry side who brought with them some of their most loyal supporters. A murmur was rippling round UCD though, as the end of quarter buzzer sounded on the third with just eight points between the side (68-60) – a murmur of discontent from UCD fans, and one of excitement from Tralee. The comeback was on – and what a spectacular one it was. UCD were not giving up without a fight though, with Dan James, Mike Garrow and Scott Kinevane just some of the players that stood up and made themselves counted for. But it all came down to those five seconds however, as just one point separated the teams (90-91) and Pemberton gave a masterclass in keeping a cool head on the free throw line as he wrote another piece of history in what has been an incredible journey for the Warriors.
“Trae has been massive for us this season,” said Kieran Donaghy afterwards. “We were down 18 at half time and we knew it was going to be a battle. We showed character to rally back. They threw something at us and it rattled us, but we regrouped at half time. We’ve a special bunch there. We had to fight on our backs today and we did.”
Elsewhere, Griffith Swords Thunder overcame SSE Airtricity Moycullen, and Belfast Star and DCU Saints had to settle things in overtime after four quarters could not separate them, with Star winning out in the end. There were also wins for Templeogue, KUBS and UCC Demons. “It was a win – but it certainly wasn’t pretty,” stated Maxol WIT Wildcats Head Coach Jillian Hayes on Saturday afternoon meanwhile, as her side overcame Meteors in the Women’s Super League. “We came up here looking for a win and I’m delighted we got it, but there’s a lot we need to work on in the coming weeks. The fact that the play-off semi-finals will be held in Waterford is a massive motivation for all of us, and that’s what we’re aiming for – we need to finish in the top four.”
Elsewhere, Courtyard Liffey Celtics continued their winning form of late, winning out in convincing fashion 84-57 against Portlaoise Panthers in Leixlip, while it was a close and competitive affair down in Cork as Pyrobel Killester had just three to spare over Singleton SuperValu Brunell, running out 66-69 point winners at the death. Meanwhile, Glanmire proved they are made of stern stuff in DCU on Sunday as the home team threw everything they had at them.
“Some people have asked if we’ve gone soft after winning the Cup, but after today’s performance I can assure you, we’re not,” said a delighted Glanmire Head Coach Mark Scannell after his side came out with the win. “That was an important win for us, a big win, and we need to win again now next weekend against NUIG Mystics. Our focus is on the play-offs now and DCU are a strong team and a good side so I’ve no doubt we’ll come up against them again there.”
Basketball Ireland Results February 25-26th
Basketball Ireland Men’s Super League:
Griffith Swords Thunder 83-74 SSE Airtricity Moycullen
UCD Marian 90-93 Garvey’s Tralee Warriors
Belfast Star 96-86 DCU Saints (after overtime, full time 77-77)
Templeogue 86-59 Radisson Blu UL Eagles
KUBS BC 86-80 Pyrobel Killester
UCC Demons 88-83 Commercial.ie Éanna
Basketball Ireland Women’s Super League:
Meteors 43-57 Maxol WIT Wildcats
Courtyard Liffey Celtics 84-57 Portlaoise Panthers
Singleton SuperValu Brunell 66-69 Pyrobel Killester
DCU Mercy 64-76 Ambassador UCC Glanmire
Basketball Ireland Men’s Division 1:
ITC Basketball 71-78 Maree
Kestrels 105-59 EJ Sligo All-Stars
Team Kilkenny 69-60 LYIT Donegal
BFG Neptune 118-69 Titans
Keane’s Supervalu Killorglin 77-66 Dublin Lions
Fr Mathews 68-90 Ulster University Elks
BFG Neptune 120-72 Ulster University Elks
Basketball Ireland Women’s Division 1:
ITC Basketball 57-49 Ulster Rockets
Fr Mathews 52-62 Ulster University Elks
Marble City Hawks 51-57 UL Huskies