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Saturday 23 February 2019

EJ's Sligo All-Stars are on a roll

EJ’S Sligo All-Stars 80 Abbey Seals Dublin Lions 77

EJ's Sligo All-Stars finished off 2018 in style on Saturday night as they made it 5 wins in a row in a nail biting finale against 2nd placed Abbey Seals Dublin Lions.

The home side started with the confidence of a team on the back of 4 straight wins and quickly ran into a 9-0 lead. Despite bossing their Dublin opponents at times during the game they never managed to run up a significant lead and it always looked like a tense finish was in store. 

Dublin Lions showed why they are 2nd in the table with a determined performance and despite trailing for most of the game they clawed themselves back into it and then opened up a 6-point lead with just under 3 minutes left on the clock in the 4th Quarter. 

But this All-Stars team plays with great self-belief and with the support of the 6th man in the form of a hungry home crowd and they dug deep to eke out the victory. 

In another hugely entertaining game the All-Stars came out on top 80-77 much to the delight of the large home crowd. 

EJ's Sligo All-Stars finish 2018 in 3rd place in the Northern Conference Table just one win behind 2nd placed Lions. All-Stars started with a first 5 of Inigo Zabalo, Tobi Brockmann, Zack Yonda, Jesus SanMartin and Oisín O'Reilly. 

They signalled their intent immediately with a well taken 3-pointer from their captain, IT Sligo Victory Scholar, Zack Yonda. 

Lions started sluggishly and before they knew it they were 7-0 down thanks to further baskets by Sligo's SanMartin & Brockmann. 

Lion's Head coach Rob White called an early Time Out to try and focus his side. 

It didn't have the desired effect though as a rampant All-Stars team continued to drive home their early advantage. 

Yonda and Howe traded baskets before All-Stars went on another 6-0 run with further baskets from SanMartin, Brockmann and a sweet dunk from Yonda. 

15-2 and the home fans were loving this. Dublin Lions offence hadn't functioned at this stage as they had shot a miserable 1 from 11 Field Goal attempts in these early stages. 

Slowly, their quality shone through and they dragged themselves back into the game.  

A fast break basket by Kavanagh followed by a long range 3-pointer from their top scorer Tiernan Howe reduced Sligo's lead to 8 and it was time for All-Stars Head Coach Carlos Rodriguez to call a Time Out.  

All-Stars responded well with two baskets from American McClenaghan.  Both sides competed well over the next few minutes and All-Stars still held a healthy 11-point lead with just 1:23 left on the clock in the 1st Quarter. 

 A lull in their performance for that last minute though allowed the Dublin side to go on a 6-0 run and end the first Quarter only 5 points behind.  

EJ's Sligo All-Stars lead 23-18 at the end of a highly entertaining Quarter but one would sense that the Lions coach was relieved to be within touching distance. Dublin Lions went straight on the attack in the 2nd Quarter and reduced the lead to just 3 points thanks to a basket by S Mohamed.  

Brockmann replied for All-Stars with a 3-pointer following some nice interchange play with SanMartin.  

The sides traded another 4 points each before Inigo Zabalo stepped up for All-Stars with a long range 3-pointer to extend the home team's lead to 9. Two big 3-pointers from Yonda and Brockmann helped Sligo into a 15-point lead with just 1 minute left in the first half but Dublin Lion's own Victory Scholar, Garret Collins, nailed an important 3-pointer under pressure to reduce the lead to 12 at the break. 

Sligo lead 45-33 at half time. All-Stars got the ideal start to the 3rd Quarter with a 3-pointer from Brockmann to extend their lead to 15 again.  Both sides were locked in battle now and kept the scoreboard ticking over.  

Tiernan Howe and Garret Collins really brought the game to Sligo and were ably supported by Finn Hughes who scored two vital 3-pointers in this Quarter.  

These sandwiched an important 3-pointer by Sligo's Oisín O'Reilly. All-Stars still lead by 12 points with less than 2 minutes remaining in the Quarter but another lull in closing out the Quarter saw them give up another 6-0 run to Lions. 

A reasonably comfortable lead had been whittled down to be a tight 6-point lead at the end of the Quarter, but All-Stars still led by 61-55.  

A poor end to the 3rd Quarter was quickly followed with a terrible start to the 4th for Sligo as Dublin Lions quickly cancelled out the All-Stars lead and took a 4-point advantage of their own within 2 minutes of the restart. 

Two fast break layups by Finn Hughes, a 3-point play by Igor Markiewicz and a long range 3-pointer from Collins rocked the home team back on their heels and had closed out a 16-0 run for the away team.  

The large home crowd were stunned but showed their belief in their team and urged them on again.  

Spaniard Zabalo steeped up and scored a layup for Sligo and followed up shortly after with 2 free-throws. Howe responded for Lions following some weak defending by Sligo. 

Yonda then attacked the basket for Sligo and drew a foul.  He converted both Free-Throws, but this was matched moments later by the nerveless Howe who responded for the Dublin side despite intense pressure from the home fans.  

All-Stars captain Yonda showed his determination to get his team back into the game as he drove hard to the basket and scored a fantastic layup following a neat change of hands mid-air.   Lions lead by the minimum. 

Markiewicz added the next 3 points for Lions including a neat Alley-Oop from an inbounded pass before Zabalo once again responded for All-Stars.  

Sligo's tormentor in chief, Howe, added the next 4 points for Lions and they held a 6-point lead 77-71 with only 2:50 remaining.  

It was to prove to be their last score though as All-Stars showed true grit to reel them in again.  Ice-cool Yonda started the comeback with 2 successful free throws and O'Reilly followed it up with another successful 2 from 2 from the line.  

Lions had a chance to go further clear, but the normally consistent Hughes missed 2 free throws under intense pressure from the home crowd's noise.  On their next offence, Yonda scored for Sligo and it was a 1-point game once again. Dublin Lions called a Time Out and made plans to steady the ship with just over a minute left on the clock.  

It was Sligo who made the next move though as Yonda nailed a 3-pointer from the corner and the crowd lifted the roof of the Mercy gym.  

All-Stars lead 79-77.  The away side pushed hard for a winner with Collins having two 3-point attempts on their next offence, but it was Sligo All-Star's night and they closed the game out with another Free Throw from Oisín O'Reilly. 

The home team have won back the respect of the Sligo crowd following 5 home wins in a row and were rewarded with another standing ovation at the final whistle after a hugely entertaining match.

Next up on Saturday 5th January is an away game against IT Carlow who sit in 3rd place in the Southern Conference league.

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