Students rain on Thunder parade with cup victory
SWORDS Thunder received their Division One runners-up medals before their National League Cup quarter-final at home to UCD Marian on Saturday night at ALSAA, but it was to be their only reward of the night.
Dave Baker's side battled valiantly, but some early personal fouls and a five-minute period in the third quarter were to cost them dearly.
Centre Conor Gallagher finished the game with 19 points, but that wasn't enough to see his team through to the semi-finals.
The game was right in the balance after the first half, with UCD leading by two points at 39-37, but the first five minutes of the next period saw them open up an eight-point gap and Swords were always chasing the game from then on.
Thunder weren't helped by the fact that inside the first five minutes their top scorer Alex Zurn picked up two personal fouls and as such his game time was limited which limited their attack.
UCD have two professional American players on their books and it was the 6ft 6in Terrance King who was the real difference. His ability under the ring caused Swords all sorts of problems as they couldn't deal with him.
The first quarter was a real tit-for-tat affair, with score after score being matched, and point guard Keith Anderson controlled the court as Swords showed no fear. They had beaten UCD in a pre-season game, but College's league form had significantly picked up since Christmas, so much so that their coach Ioannis Liapakis was named Coach of the Month for February.
The introduction of KC Rodenberg for Zurn early on offered Swords a real threat under the boards as the American's rebounding kept the scoreboard ticking over. Swords were ahead by a point at the end of the first, 21-20.
The home side dominated possession but were wasteful in attack as they missed numerous chances, but to their credit they closed down the UCD attack also.
A fast break with seconds left in the half saw Keith Anderson launch the ball to Dara McKeon who in turn lobbed it up for KC Rodenberg to hit a reverse lay-up, but he was just beaten by the buzzer and the half ended with UCD leading 37-39.
When Zurn and Anderson were on court together the duo could really explode from one end to the other, but once again Zurn was to pick up a personal foul early on and he had to come off.
With a gap opening, Swords were beginning to look for three-pointers and Dara McKeon missed a long shot mid-way through the half, but with the third quarter drawing to a close Gallagher and McKeon hit six points in quick succession to leave the score at 56-62.
Rodenberg and Gallagher both came to the fore in the final quarter and with six minutes left the scores were tied at 68-68 thanks to 12 points from the duo. Thunder managed to take the lead at 72-70, but a tactical UCD timeout killed the momentum. This was followed by misses from Anderson and Kevin Lacey and the balance swung in favour of the Students.
With two minutes remaining UCD stretched their lead to five, and although Zurn had a chance to close that with a quick steal his lay-up rebounded off the backboard.
Frustration quickly set in then and petulant fouling saw College eventually coast to a 10-point win.
Swords Thunder: Keith Anderson, Alex Zurn, Ciaran Leddy, Darragh McGovern, Anton McDonnell, Paul Dowling, Kevin Lacey, Jurgis Butkevicius, Dara McKeon, Darragh Versochyle, Donal Monaghan, KC Rodenberg, Emil Jankech, Conor Gallagher.