Swords Thunder rumble on after a narrow win in Galway
Basketball: Pat Duffy Men's National Cup 1st round - Maree 80 Swords Thunder 83
Griffiths College Swords Thunder booked their place in the quarter-finals of the Hula Hoops National Cup after a narrow victory away to Maree in Galway.
Dave Baker's side have enjoyed mixed fortune in this competition over the last couple of years winning the competition outright two years ago before being sensationally knocked out in the opening round by DCU Saints last year.
The Fingal side travelled to Galway determined not to make the same mistake as last year and they were hoping for a similar result to the league encounter between the sides last month which Thunder won 82-69.
Maree came into the match with confidence high having beaten UCC Demons last week while Swords were licking their wounds following a nine point defeat to Garvey's Tralee Warriors.
Maree playing at home started well in front of their home crowd and with Sean Sellers pulling the strings for Maree they soon opened up a six point lead. Swords gradually got themselves into the game with key man Isaac Westbrooks scoring three successive baskets to get his side back on level terms. Late baskets from Sellers and Eoin Rockall ensured however that the hosts ended the first quarter on a high with a 24-19 lead.
The second period followed a similar pattern to the first with Maree starting the quarter well before the Thunder responded with some excellent baskets from in-form Elijah Mays and newcomer Bobby Ahearn.
As half-time approached the visitors reduced Maree's lead to two points thanks to another excellent score from Westbrooks. Once again though the Galway side responded well and closed out the opening half with baskets from Sellers Rockall and Niels Bunschoten to go in at the break with a 48-40 lead.
Last season the Thunder more often than not seemed to go through the gears in the third quarter often blowing teams away with their superior fitness and skill and although that hasn't really been on display so far this season we got a glimpse of it in Galway on Saturday as the Thunder dominated the third quarter to take the lead for the first time in the match.
Maree were on the back-foot for the first time in the match as baskets from Westbrooks, and Elijah Mays drew Swords level. A magnificent three-pointer from Mays gave the Thunder the lead for the first time since the early stages of the game and they closed out the third quarter with a 64-61 lead.
The final quarter was a tense end to end affair with the lead changing hands on a number of occasions. In the end however, it was the visitors who came through thanks to a late Elijah Mays basket which secured Swords Thunder's passage into the quarter finals.
Top scorers: Griffith College Swords Thunder: Elijah Mays 24, Issac Westbrooks 16, Bobby Ahearn 14