Maigh Cuilinn 70 (30)
St Vincents 67 (37)
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In a must win game, Maigh Cuilinn held their nerves at the death to come out on top of a thriller in the Basketball Ireland Men’s Superleague at the University of Galway Sports Arena last Sunday, defeating St Vincents of Dublin 70 to 67.
After 39 minutes that saw ten lead changes and the sides tied a dozen times, an open court steal and layup from St Vincents’ star guard Donovan Fields looked to have won the game for the visitors when he put them ahead 66 to 67 with 40 seconds remaining.
Far from panicking, Maigh Cuilinn were able to do the business at the most unlikely of places for this squad, namely at the free throw line where they have struggled mightily all season.
First, Grant Olsson drew an off the ball foul that sent him to the charity stripe where he converted two from two to give Maigh Cuilinn a one point lead.
Then, when the formidable Maigh Cuilinn defence locked in on the subsequent possession and forced a difficult shot from deep from Vicents that fell wide of the mark, Joe Tummon gathered the rebound and was fouled with just seven seconds remaining.
Tummon coolly slotted both free throws and when a desperation heave from Vincents missed on the buzzer, Maigh Cuilinn could draw breath and reflect on a crucial win.
Such a rosy outcome did not alway appear likely earlier in the day, particularly when, after an entertaining and tight first quarter that finished Maigh Cuilinn three points to the good 19 to 16, the visitors came out on fire to start the second and rattled off a 15 to 3 run to grab the game.
Some very important scores by James Connaire and Matteo Liberatore steadied the ship before the break and the home faithfull were ultimately relieved to see their guys go in at the half down by single digits only, trailing by 9 on a score of 30 to 39.
The third quarter made it abundantly clear to the large crowd in attendance that this was not going to be a game decided by a wide margin and within five minutes of the restart the contest was back level and from there to the end the margin was rarely more than a single basket.
One intriguing sub-plot was also becoming evidently clear and that was the foul trouble both teams had found themselves in with Maigh Cuilnn in particular struggling, first when Kyle Cunningham – who had done an excellent job as the main defender on Fields during most of the game – and then top scorer Grant Olsson had to sit for a considerable periods of time in the final quarter with four fouls.
Maigh Cuilinn head coach John Cunningham was able to call on the Maigh Cuilinn reserves with confidence however and it was the men from the west that held the led from the mid way point of the fourth right up to the final minute when Fields stole the ball and gave Vincents a fleeting lead with 40 seconds remaining prior to the heroics of Olsson and Tummon at the freethrow line to restore what would be the finishing lead for Maigh Cuilinn and earn them their third win of the season.
Maigh Cuilnn hit the road for their next outing, against reigning Superleague champions, Tralee Warriors.
That trip to the kingdom will definitely mark the beginning of the home stretch of the season as the following week will see the last home game in Galway, which Maigh Cuilinn has elected to host in Leitir Móir in conjunction with Cumann Cispheile na Gael as part of a wider day of basketball in the area featuring a Maigh Cuilnn led training session for local underage players in the morning.
Maigh Cuilinn Scorers: Matteo Liberatore 21, Grant Olsson 19, James Connaire 11, Dylan Cunningham 5,Joseph Tummon 5, Kyle Cunningham 4,Brian Gaffney 3, Ayberk Taylan 2, Rory O’Sullivan, Donagh McDonagh, Kevin Nugent, Dara Kenna.
See our remaining Superleague fixture here.
Categories: Men's Superleague