Basketball: Meany points way as Marian defy odds to trump Killester
UCD Marian 60
11890 Killester 57
Men's Superleague Cup Final
Rarely, if ever, has the final of this competition thrown up such an unlikely victory as took place yesterday afternoon at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght.
UCD Marian -- appearing in the final for the first time in their history -- defied the great odds that were stacked against them, to pip 11890 Killester in the dying moments of an enthralling contest.
The northsiders, as league and cup holders, were virtually unbackable at 1/8 before tip-off, but the expectation seemed more a hindrance than an advantage as the heat cranked up towards the final hooter.
It was deemed beforehand that if UCD were to prevail, it would be their resilience and spirit that would be crucial. And that proved to be the case.
The opening quarter saw them shoot into an early lead with four three-pointers, the pick of which came from Michael Higgins. A superb lay-up from Neil Baynes, after James Crowder had found him with a blind pass, was the score of the period. It was a show of force that had the crowd at least considering the possibility of an upset.
But Killester rallied in the second period and straight away John Behan punished a Baines hand-check from the free-throw line. Jermaine Turner, who was superb in the defence for Killester, shot a magnificent three to nudge his side in front.
For all their early gusto, UCD were now being pinned in the backcourt and their over-reliance on shooting from distance was beginning to prove costly. Killester were appearing in their fourth successive final and that experience began to shine through as they saw out the first half with a 35-28 lead.
At that stage, it only seemed a matter of time before the holders turned the screw.
Isaac Westbrooks was at the centre of everything for the northsiders and the talismanic point-guard assisted Turner for a neat lay-up under the basket. Turner then supplied Peder Madsen with a sublime blind pass to bring the margin to 12 points at 46-34.
However dominant Killester had become, they were failing to expose UCD in the lanes and as they were being tightened their creative powers dwindled somewhat.
Some simple errors under the boards were punished when Crowder hit two massive three-pointers within the space of a minute to bring the deficit down to seven.
Damien Sealy then came off the Killester bench to put 10 between the sides, but with the score at 52-42 and UCD now seriously flirting with the notion of glory, it was 'game on' going into the final quarter.
The college side kept pressing, with Baines and Crowder getting vital points to reel in Killester. Conor Meany finally caught them, drawing his side level with 3.35 left on the clock.
Just before the hooter, he made sure of a historic win with a point from the free-throw line.
His coach, Fran Ryan, couldn't sum up his own emotions after an astonishing finale.
"I don't think it's possible," he said afterwards. "I think in two or three days' time we'll reflect on this, maybe look at it on TV. But at the moment, I don't think it's possible."