Thunder close gap to boost title challenge
Basketball: Swords Thunder 89 - Maree 65
Whisper it quietly, but this may have been the week that Swords Thunder reignited their title challenge.
Dave Baker's side hosted struggling Maree and as expected won quite convincingly, but crucially on the same afternoon league leaders UCD Marian fell to just their third defeat of the season as they were beaten by DCU Saints.
That result leaves Thunder just three points behind joint leaders UCD Marian and Garveys Tralee Warriors, with just five games remaining of the season. Granted, Baker's men have played a game more than UCD Marian, but they still have to face them at ALSAA in a game which could very well determine the destiny of this year's title.
Swords hosted Maree looking to maintain their unbeaten start to the year which has seen them win three games in succession to get their league challenge back on track.
Baker started the game with Isaac Westbrooks, Travis Black, Kevin Lacey, Oisin Kerlin and Conroy Baltimore as he tried to utilise Kerlin's height to negate the threat of Maree's 6ft 8in American Corey Hammell.
Thunder began the game well and stormed into an early lead, with Baltimore continuing his recent good scoring form to help his side open up a 19-10 first-quarter lead.
Maree began to get into the game in the second period and they competed well, with Hammell and Kenneth Hansberry causing the Thunder defence trouble. Maree narrowly won the second period to leave the half-time score 36-28 in Swords' favour.
Baker introduced Justin Goldsborough during the third period and the big American continued his return to fitness with an excellent cameo, scoring two baskets in quick succession to extend his side's lead.
Baltimore's third three-pointer of the game stretched Swords' lead to 20 points towards the end of the third quarter as the home side looked to put the game to bed.
A rather comfortable outing was completed in the final quarter, with Charlie Coombes and Lacey helping to put Thunder out of sight as Baker's men recorded their fourth win in succession.
After Saturday's game the coach insisted that his side are still in the title race and challenged his side to finish the season unbeaten.
'I did think that UCD Marian might have found it tough this week following their National Cup final defeat. We've been there and it can be tough to lift yourself after a defeat like that. That loss for Marian has left the door open slightly for us and it's up to us to take advantage.
'All we can do is to keep on winning and hopefully results will go our way elsewhere and leave us in with a chance.
'The good thing for us is that we have UCD Marian coming to play us in the ALSAA and if we win that game we are in with a shout.
'We have five games left and I have challenged every player in there to win each of them.'