FINAL SCORE: Moycullen 88 – Maree 63
Welcome to the top table was the message from Moycullen to Irish basketball Superleague newcomers Maree in the hotly anticipated Galway derby season opener on Saturday night in Oranmore.
Calling on their now eight years of experience playing in top league in the country, Moycullen proved too strong for a willing but young Maree outfit.
Moycullen head coach John Cunningham was understandably delighted with his side’s opening effort, a 63 to 88 victory away from home.
“We did to Maree what teams used to do to us when we first joined the league, wore them down and found better looks as the game went on,” said Cunningham.
The encounter had promised to be a tricky one for Moycullen, playing in Maree’s home gym on a night the club had been working towards for many years, their Superleague debut.
Despite some frenetic early exchanges and some good scoring from Maree, Moycullen were always edging ahead and with new American signing Brandon McGuire having a blistering start; showing a deft touch inside after battling hard for an offensive rebound, nailing two deep 3’s, and a nice high post game. In the 1st quarter alone Brandon had 10 points and any anxiousness or nerves about his debut were well and truly put to bed. With 6 other players also finding their scoring touch we found ourselves 5 ahead at the end of the 1st quarter; 24-19.
An excellent defensive 2nd quarter saw Maree limited to 11 points and with 7 different Moycullen players getting on the score sheet, the lead by half was now at 13; 43-30.
The 3rd quarter was a sloppy affair with no real flow to the game but crucially for us we were still able to keep the scoreboard ticking over and once again with a great spread of scoring it was difficult for Maree to focus on one player to stop. By the end of the 3rd, the lead was now out to 17 points.
Maree are always a dangerous team especially at home and it was important that Moycullen didn’t just try to see out the final 10 minutes of the game. Thankfully they lads didn’t and the 4th quarter started with a flurry of 3’s for us manufactured by some great defence followed by excellent ball movement on the offensive end. The team continued to do a good job of sharing the ball and finding the open man with the crucial extra pass and the score at the end of the game read Moycullen 88 – 63 Maree.
“Maree where dependent on two or three players to do their scoring and we just about managed to keep them in check during most of the game, and I thought we had a much better spread of scoring,” said Moycullen captain, James Loughnane, who also joint top-scored for his team with 18 points.
Indeed, it was Moycullen’s ability to get scores in a variety of ways that made the difference as four players contributed double digit point tallies; Brandon had 18, James Loughnane also had 18, Patrick Lyons had 12 and Kyle Cunningham finished with 11.
“It was good to get everybody involved and still maintain a good structure. We shot the ball very well in the 2nd half,” remarked Cunningham after the final whistle.
With the excitement of the first ever Superleague Galway derby now behind them, both teams will look to next weekend’s action to gauge where they truly stand after the preseason work.
While Maree travel north to tackle Belfast Star, Moycullen host their home opener by welcoming DCU Saints to the Kingfisher Sports Arena on Saturday at 7pm.
Saints bested Moycullen twice last year but ultimately finished below the Galway side in the league table, a sign of how close the teams matched up.
“Both Saints’ games last season were disappointing in that they were the only games all season that I felt really slipped away from us,” said Cunningham.
“They appear to have gotten bigger since last year with their new American so it will be a good test for our interior defence. We hope to get a good crowd in for our first game and give them something to shout about.”
Moycullen scorers: James Loughnane (18), Brandon McGuire (18), Patrick Lyons (12), Kyle Cunningham (11), Cian Nihill (9), Joseph Tummon (7), Dylan Cunningham (5), Mindaugas Kurcenkovas (4), Paul Freeman (4), Rory Gilson, Sean Candon, Conor Curran.
By Steven Heaney