The long wait for Galway’s Titans is over. Having lost five successive national basketball finals, the JM&L Auctioneers Titans finally claimed silverware at the National Basketball Arena.
It took an unbelievable final quarter comeback in which the lead was swapped six times, but the Galway side dug deep to eke out a victory by just three points to win the National Shield Final.
For the majority of this final Titans looked likely to be disappointed again as they trailed opponents Team Left Bank Kilkenny. However, a brace of late threes from game MVP Chris Coyne helped them over the line for a 68 to 65 win.
Titans opened the game with a fine three-pointer from Paulius Pelzius before extending the lead through fast paced breakaways from Tomas Mitkus and Emmet Murphy, but they ended the quarter behind by 20-10.
Kilkenny, having converted the majority of their baskets, also produced a fine defensive display which prevented Titans controlling the play or scoring.
Titans, struggling to cope with the relentless pressure from the Team Left Bank defence, were forced into making mistakes. Thanks to a steal from point guard Puff Summers, the Kilkenny outfit grasped the initiative and added further baskets from James Butler and Brian Hogan as well as a couple of free throws from Padraig Morrissey to take a 29-25 lead at the break.
Fortunately for Titans, the Kilkenny outfit failed to take advantage of their possession, but the leadership and competitive guile of Puff Sommers kept them in front. Having already converted 11 points, the Kilkenny point guard assisted with just as many points. However Team Left Bank were made to pay for fouling under the boards, and it enabled Titans to reduce the deficit to seven at the end of the period.
Titans continued to struggle in the final quarter as Team Left Bank quickly shut down any attempt they made at going forward. However they hung in with Coyne exchanging three pointers with Summers, while Mitikus managed to score two big baskets, only to be cancelled by two three pointers from Butler in quick succession.
However Titans dug deep and managed to reduce the deficit to a single point with baskets by Mitkus and a couple of free throws by captain Paulis Peldzius. They managed to get themselves into the lead through some superb offence which resulted in their opponent’s defence showing signs of heavy legs and indiscipline.
The lead switched sides on four more occasions in the last couple of minutes, with Puff Summers driving at the Titans, fouling out MVP Chris Coyne, and nailing each and every free throw to keep Kilkenny’s nose in front. A point in arrears with just 17 seconds on the clock, Tomas Mitkus powered his way to the Hoop with 12 seconds on the clock, to put the Westerners a point to the good and end up with a game high 29 points. Kilkenny had two more opportunities to win the game in the dying seconds, one of which saw Puff Summers weave his way to the three-point line and launch a three-point attempt.
However on this occasion the ball hit the rim and with it went the Kilkenny dream as and the Joyce Mackie & Lougheed Titans secured their first national men’s title in their 10 years existence.
JM&L Auctioneers Titans scorers, T Mitikus 29, C Coyne 15, P Paulius 8, T Fabricuss 8. Team Left Bank Kilkenny scorers, P Summers 23, B Hogan 13, J Butler 12.