Warriors edge out Éanna ahead of Cup rematch

Men's Superleague: Garvey's Tralee Warriors 80 DBS Eanna 77

Kieran Donaghy of Garvey’s Warriors Tralee in action against DBS Eanna players, from left, Marko Tomic, Mark Ryenolds and Neil Lynch during their Superleague match at Tralee Sports Complex
Kieran Donaghy of Garvey’s Warriors Tralee in action against DBS Eanna players, from left, Marko Tomic, Mark Ryenolds and Neil Lynch during their Superleague match at Tralee Sports Complex

Alan Cantwell

Garvey's Tralee Warriors remain at the head of affairs in Superleague after just getting the better of their League rivals DBS Éanna in a dramatic evening of action at the Tralee Sports Complex on Saturday.

The League champions had led at their ease throughout the contest before Éanna conjured up a heroic comeback to turn a 15-point deficit into a one-point lead midway through final quarter. However, the Warriors showed the character of champions by summoning one final push to wrest back the lead in the final seconds to win out by 80-77.

In what was billed as a potentially League season defining encounter for both sides, the Warriors got off to the better start producing arguably their best first quarter performance of the campaign. A score from Paul Dick and two from Kieran Donaghy had the hosts sixup early on and when Andre Berry stormed into the contest to land 11 of the next 13 Warriors points, the League champions stretched the lead out to 10.

Marco Tomic roused the visitors with a three to cut the gap but Dick and Jon Lawton combined to keep the Warriors lead in double figures and when Rap Buivydas opened his account on the buzzer their advantage at quarter time was 29-14.

The Warriors continued to dominate early in the second with Daniel Jokubaitis hitting the first of his four three pointers and Berry continued to torment the Éanna defence with back to back scores. Éanna's key offensive threat Stefan Zecevic hit a three to spark a mini revival and when Hillary Netsiyanwa, Joshua Wilson and the hugely effective Mark Reynolds all converted the lead was down to 13. However, the Warriors seemed determined to lay down a marker to their opponents just a week out from meeting them again in the Cup semi-final when Berry again caught sight of the basket and Darragh O'Hanlon arced in an effort from distance.

Zecevic replied in kind and Reynolds and Tomic fired in to keep the half time gap to 15. But they reckoned without a killer score from Jon Lawton inside the final minute of the half that saw the Warriors take a 51-33 lead to the long break.

The hectic pace of the first half gave way to a more pedestrian third quarter but the sides still went score for score and a Jokubaitis three-pointer right on the buzzer saw the Warriors take what looked certain to be a match winning lead of 65-50 down the stretch.

In the final quarter it appeared that the Warriors simply had to hold their shape and nerve to see out the win. In truth they held neither as Éanna summoned up a scintillating scoring blitz that had the Warriors faithful looking on in total disbelief. The Dublin side simply overran their rivals to fire in 15 unanswered points to draw level.

Éanna's scores came from everywhere with Reynolds opening salvo followed by another from Ballinger.

Reynolds got to the board again and added the extra before the impressive Ballinger hit back to back efforts to cut the gap to a single score.

Éanna's Daniel Heaney will never hit a more important first score of any game as he lobbed in a three to draw the sides level midway through the final quarter.

Jokubaitis hit the panic button to get the Warriors going again as he again found the net from distance and when Donaghy got his second of the night the Warriors edged back in front. However the home side could not get a hand on Ballinger and the Éanna shooter took the Warriors rearguard for another two scores to wrest the lead back again.

Jokubaitis fired in an absolute cracker from distance and Paul Dick and Marco Tomic exchanged scores and the sides were level again with 1'45'' on the clock.

Big games need big players to make big plays, and it was Paul Dick that again perfectly fitted that bill late on.

The hosts had all but drained the shot clock when the peerless point guard took the ball, stepped into position and hit a shot from well outside the arc, worthy of the price of admission alone, to put the Warriors 78-75 up. It caught Éanna by surprise and the visitors had to scramble for an equalising score.

Donaghy was, again, imperious under both boards late on pulling down an unbelievable rebound in the dying seconds.

Éanna turned over the ball with the final buzzer at the ready and it was left to Andre Berry to draw foul and calmly finish two from two from the line to see out the crucial win.

Scorers

Tralee Warriors: Andre Berry 23, Paul Dick 17, Daniel Jokubaitis 14

DBS Éanna: Mark Reynolds 18, Stefan Zecevic 14, Paris Ballinger 12

Warriors and Eanna meet again in Cup semi-final

Next up for the Warriors is the semi-final of the Cup next Saturday at 4pm in Neptune Stadium, Cork where they will again cross swords with DBS Éanna in what is expected to be another thrilling encounter. The prize for the winners is a place in the Hula Hoops Pat Duffy National Cup Final on Saturday, January 25 to face either Griffith College Templeogue or Coughlan C&S Neptune.

Kerryman

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