Moycullen Basketball's U18 men's team has advanced to the 2019 Hula Hoops National Cup final.
The Galway side overcame a tough and physical Dublin Lions to set up a meeting with Belfast Star who enjoyed a 81-71 win over Portlaosie Panters in the first of the semi-final action in Cork.
Moycullen finished with a 74-56 win over the Dubliners, helped by Irish international James Connaire, who finished the game with 31 points, with strong support from Paul Kelly who produced a 21-point display.
“It was a result we really had to grind out,” said Moycullen coach Dylan Cunningham. “Fair play to the lads. They really showed up in the second half.
"We have a strong team, it’s not just one guy or two guys, and I thought everyone on the team stepped up today and that’s why we got the win.”
The first quarter epitomised the game - Lions started brightly, but a strong response from Moycullen out them ahead 6-2 early in the game. However, Moycullen were never really able to build up a substantial lead to be comfortable, by the end of the quarter the lead was 14-11 with n even spread of scorers with Aaron Kieran, Paul Kelly, James Connaire, James Cummins and Daniel Arimoro.
Moycullen enjoyed a better start to the second quarter with Kelly getting into the heart of the Lions' defence to finish some good moves. Defensive pressure from Tommy McNeela and Iarlaith O’Sullivan forced the Lions into tough shots from which Moycullen capitalised with some fast break scores, while Gerard Davoren secured some huge offensive rebounds to provide his side with second chance looks as the Galway side led 34-26 at half-time.
Crucially Moycullen stretched the lead out to 12 at the start of the third, but agains Lions reduced it to six. It was something of a see-saw quarter with super work from Daniel and James Cummins stretching the lead to 15, only for the Lions to cut it down to single figures again.
However, a crucial score with 30 seconds to go helped Moycullen win the quarter by one, but were 51-42 ahead.
Davoren started the fourth with a great score, and although Kelly was fouled on, Moycullen maintained the momentum, helped in no small measure by super defence.
James Connaire and O'Sullivan were on target from the free-throw line; hitting 10 from 14 attempts, while Tommy McNeela made life miserable for the Lions guards, with Davoren mopping up the boards.
The win was guaranteed in the last few minutes, and by the end the of the game the lead, was 74-56. James Connaire was excellent offensively in the fourh quarter, scoring 14 points, nailing 8 free throws, and getting those all important scores when we really needed them.
Next up is another showdown with Belfast Star in what is expected to produce another nail-bitter.
Moycullen U18: Paul Kelly (21 ), Iarlaith O’Sullivan (8 ), James Cummins (5 ), James Wall, Daniel Arimoro (3 ), James Connaire (33 ), Avelino Assogba, Eoin O’Reilly, Aaron Kieran, Gerard Davoren (4 ), Tommy McNeela, Mairtin O’Conghaile, Niel Kelly, Cormac Croke, William Onyenweson. Coach Dylan Cunningham, asst coach Nollaig Cunningham; team manager Barry Connaire.
Presentation College Athenry was also in action in the Hula Hoops NICC Men’s National Cup semi-final, losing to Glasnevin 88-55.
Led by player/coach Kevin Foley, who also top scored with 28 points, Glasnevin built up a lead early in the game, and although Athenry fought back and get to within four points, Glasnevin pulled away once again to see the game out.