SLIGO ALL-STARS U-16 boys and their coaches, Shane O'Meara and Glen Monaghan, travelled to Cork to take part in the Cork County Board U-16 invitational tournament. They were drawn in a group with the basketball powerhouse Neptune and Ballincollig.
With a sluggish start to the tournament the All-Stars eventually overcame a tough Neptune side. Both sides defended well and the Sligo side were struggling to come to terms with their new zone offense which affected their scoring. The introduction of Julian Jarmolowicz paid instant dividends as he drained a few mid-range jumpers to put a little bit of distance between both teams on the score board. All-Stars 47 Ballincollig 33 The second game of the day was a much easier victory for the YeatsCounty men. There was much more fluency to their offense and some stingy defense frustrated their opponents as the All-Stars enjoyed a 20 point lead mid-way through the third quarter.
The tempo was set by sharp shooting Mark Chambers who punished Ballincollig with three 3 pointers early in the game. Mark's shooting dragged Ballincollig's defense out of the key and the game opened up inside thereafter.
The All-Stars showed some fantastic passing on transition as they continuously sought a better scoring opportunity and unselfishly gave up the ball to a player in a better position.
Cian Lally led the team in assists in this game and gutsy performances from Ross Farrell, Ryan Tansey and Adrian Frain meant that the All-Stars coaches were afforded the comfort of resting their starting players for most of the second half. All-Stars 51 St. Brendan's 44 The quarter final match up should have suited the All-Stars but a below par performance on defense meant that for most of the game both teams merely traded baskets.
The Sligo side looked sluggish and tired on defense and they were forced to play zone to stop the Kerry side's penetration. The zone slowed the game down considerably but poor effort on defense left Sean Leonard open time after time and he punished the All-Stars with three 3 pointers in the space of 5 minutes and the Tralee boys took the lead for the first time in the game.
Some half court pressure was used and this forced some turnovers and easy lay-ups for the Sligo guards which put the Boys in Black back in the driving seat.
These easy scores frustrated the Tralee players and coaching staff and a lack of discipline gave the All-Stars some bonus free-throws and possession to close out the game. Sligo All-Stars 53 Fr. Matthew's 47 The basketball prophets had earlier hailed this clash as the final of the tournament but the luck of the draw dictated otherwise. Fr. Matthew's are topping the table in the Cork regional league and have been winning all their games with considerable ease so they were rightfully seen as overwhelming favourites to win the tournament.
The All-Stars had other ideas however and they put their stamp on the game from the get-go, pulling into an early 6 point lead.
Tobi Brockmann showed up big-time as he got to the heart of the Cork side's defense time and time again finishing well over their bigger players. He also took control of the All-Stars offense at times which was valuable down the stretch as the AllStars lack of guards on the bench meant that the players had to get their rest on the offensive end.
Mark Chambers was his usual reliable self and he punished Fr. Matthews defensive and offensive errors throughout the game with interceptions and assists which put kept the All-Stars in the driving seat for most of the game.
The star of the game however had to be Philip Hamilton who showed everyone in attendance why he is considered one of the best guards in the country at this age level.
He took the game to Fr. Matthew's from the tip-off and dominated his opposing guards at both ends of the floor. The shell shocked Cork side did everything they could to contain him when he had the ball in his hands but Philip put his athleticism to use and got to the hoop time after time and finished beautifully despite all the attention he was receiving. Even when fouled Hamilton converted his free throws which further frustrated the opposition and put a number of the Matthew's players in foul trouble. Philip's 26 point haul topped all scorers and was easily the individual performance of the tournament as many neutral players, coaches and parents stayed on to watch this thrilling encounter.
This landmark victory placed the All-Stars in the final against Moycullen who had defeated Maree of Galway in the earlier semi-final. Moycullen 37 Sligo All-Stars 32 After the most gruelling of semi-finals where so much was asked of the Sligo players it was bordering on cruelty for them to be asked to play another game just five minutes later. This however was the case and and exhausted All-Stars side looked to have depleted all their energy reserves as Moycullen punished them in the first half with easy layups and mid-range shooting.
The All-Stars struggled to have any influence on the game and soon found themselves 18 points adrift of a Moycullen side who were growing in confidence as the game progressed.
Despite numerous well worked offenses the ball simply refused to drop and all the weary warriors could do was watch as the final seconds of the game draw to a close.
The All-Stars return to Cork on January 5th for an U-15 tournament.