Basketball Finals Day Brings Joy and Heartache

On Thursday last (23 March) it was an early start for some of the Basketball players from Our Lady’s College, as they headed to the National Basketball Arena at 7.15am.  Two teams were contesting the Secondary Schools Association Finals in Tallaght.  The 1styear A team, were playing in the Division 2 final at 9.30am, against Mercy College, Coolock.  The 2nd Year B team, were playing Dominican College, Griffith Avenue at 10.45am in the Division 1 final.  Their bus, complete with supporters left the school at 8am.

The 1st year team was very nervous but looking forward to getting out on the court at the Arena.  It was a first time for these players to be at the N.B.A., and they were slightly overawed by the size of the arena.  However, once the ball was tossed up at the start they settled into their task, and nerves seemed to dissipate.  Erin Lane was controlling play from the point guard spot and scored the first two baskets for her side.  Ava Carolan was the other contributor in this quarter, leaving Our Lady’s 6-2 up at the break.  The next five players to the floor wanted to keep the momentum going, but an injury to their point guard and influential scorer, Katie McCabe within the first three minutes, shook the side.  Carla Grennan had to take over on the point, a position she was not familiar with, but did a great job.  They resettled and Joy Njekwe picked up two lovely rebounds to keep her side in the lead at the half time break, 10-4.

Quarter three saw Marcy keep plugging away, but were struggling with the speed of Erin Lane. Caoimhe Kearney and Zoe Lennon were tenacious in defence and assisted in Lane running in some fine lay-ups. The Boynesiders went into the final quarter leading 15-8.  Dannan Jackson was now able to take over the point guard spot for McCabe and was instrumental in getting the ball into the post players, Benita Assoua and Lois O’Hare.  The last quarter was a tense affair as both sides missed chances at the basket.  Mercy’s number 7 got the better of the defence and scored 3 points, leaving 4 points separating the sides before Joy Njekwe scored herself another basket.  Benita Assous’s defence was brilliant and stopped Mercy on a few occasions from what looked like a certain score.  Another basket by Mercy left it a bit anxious for Coach Denise Rice, but this young 1st year team, hung on and bagged themselves the Division 2, SSA Winners Title for 2017, the final score 17 – 13.

After presentation of medals and the winner’s plaque to Captain, Katie McCabe, the supporters had more to cheer for when Erin Lane was announced as the Most Valuable Player in the final.

TEAM & SCORES: Captain, Katie McCabe; Benita Assoua; Ava Carolan 2; Ellen Donnelly; Zoe Gardiner; Emily Farrell; Carla Grennan; Dannan Jackson; Caoimhe Kearney; Erin Lane 9; Zoe Lennon; Rebecca McGrane; Joy Njekwe 6; Kaylin Nugent; Lois O’Hare; Keelin O’Reilly (vomiting bug); Ava Russell and Niamh Skelly.

The 2nd Year B team was waiting in the wings for their turn.  This team won the 1st Year, Division 2 title in the N.B.A. this time last year, and so had a little experience of playing on the big stage.  Their encounter earlier in the season with Dominican College was not a memorable one, as they lost by 15 points, when both their ‘club’ players dominated.  But this was finals day, and the title was for anyone.  The 1st quarter of this final was perhaps the best of the four.  Catherine Grey was first to score, before Dominicans club player bagged herself 4 points.  Lauren McHugh then stepped up for her side and was rewarded with a lovely score and one free throw, which she converted.  The ‘College’ were 5-6 down going into quarter two but these five players failed to register a score in this quarter.  However, they kept their second club player to a single basket.  The score was only 5-8 at the half time break.  Quarter three saw both sides go end to end without any scores being registered.  Eventually, Oyin Adelegan scored off a rebound to leave a single point separating the sides.  A slight lapse in defence allowed both club players to record a score.  The score of 7 – 11 going into the final quarter left this final wide open and there for the taking.  With both club players now on the floor for the opposition, the ‘College’ girls worked their socks off to keep them scoreless and did an excellent job, as Dominican failed to score in this final quarter.  Sadly, Our Lady’s also remained scoreless, and the accolades went to Drumcondra on this occasion.  Although the side was upset at the final whistle, Coach Rice reminded them of the exceptional season they had.  They were the only team in the division playing without club players and had made their second final in as many years.  They also lost two influential players during the season to injury.

TEAM & SCORES: Captain, Abigail Woods (injured); Oyin Adelegan 2; Leah Bastianelli; Shona Bradley (injured); Martyna Chomiak; Chantelle Gallagher; Holly Garry; Catherine Gray 2; Bronagh Lane; Lauren McHugh 3; Ofu Obhakhan; Ronke Olatinwo; Ellie O’Reilly and Maia Savage.

A big thank you must go to all the supporters who made the effort to travel on the day, despite the early start.  They contributed hugely to the atmosphere on the day.