Bish captain Brian Gaffney was the hero for St Joseph’s College when they won the schools U16A National Cup by two points over fellow Galwegians, Calasanctius College, Oranmore.
In a thrilling match that needed two periods of overtime, it took something special to separate the sides in this Subway Schools U16A Boys' Cup final at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght.
With just 5.8 seconds to go, Brian Gaffney stepped up – grabbing the inbound firmly from the corner of the arc, and from the block he sent the ball sailing high through the air hitting the back of the net for a memorable two point win on the buzzer, 58-56.
The game had started with Calasanctius settling quickly and running up an early 16-9 lead in the first quarter, thanks to Roniel Oguekwe, Ben Burke, Evan O Rourke and Myles Loughrane, who played a significant p.
The Bish remained in touch with baskets from Tony Ezeonu, Gaffney and Joseph Coughlan, but struggled with Oranmore's zone defence. However as the game progressed, the Bish found gaps in the defence, and with slick combination passes, Aongus McDonnell and Tony Exeonu produced some excellent inside baskets.
Strong defence from Ben Powell, and some superb shooting from Gaffney, Joseph and Coughla, and good inside play from Aonghus McDonnell who dominated his defensive boards, the game level at half-time at 25 points apiece.
Both teams had moved their defences around throughout the second quarter to try to gain a strategic advantage, with coaches Clarke and Conboy for the Bish responding well to the effective zone defence of coach Burke from Oranmore.
Quarter three was another nail-biter, with Calasanctius defence exerting more pressure on the ball up the court. The Oranmore school, through two impressive scores from Ben Burke and Oisin Holland, put Calasanctius ahead by the midway point 29-25, but Coughlan and Gaffney were on hand once more to tie the game level for the Bish. They proceeded to secure a lead for The Bish just moments later, which included a big finish to the quarter from Tony Ezeonu to put the city school in front by 35-38.
Gaffney led the charge in the fourth, driving the Bish into a 39-44 point lead by the midway mark, but Calasanctius stepped up the fight. The speed of the game began to increase and the Bish introduced shooting guard Ben Powell and Cian Carroll to bolster the defensive boards as Aonghus McDonnell was in foul trouble. A significant power move and score from Ronnie Oguekwe and Ben Burke kept them right in the mix, and with just over two minutes to go, Ronnie Oguekwe closed the gap back to three with a magnificent score. With just over a minute to play, Evan O’Rourke hit another huge three-pointer for Calasanctius from outside the arc and suddenly, it was back to a tie game at 44 points apiece.
Tony Ezenou for the Bish spotted an opportunity and following a drive to the basket and a spin move edged the Bish lads ahead with a super score, but again, it was Ben Burke who was on hand to reply immediately and with 39 seconds to go. Scores were matched at both ends of the floor and on the full time buzzer, it was level at 46 points and overtime loomed.
A nervy first period of overtime followed, with free throws that could have sealed victory for either team missed at both ends. Ronnie Oguekwe chipped in a big score for Calasanctius to edge them in front, but again, Tony Ezeonu was on hand to tie the game level as the buzzer sounded on 48-48 to put both teams into double overtime.
With the crowd on the edge of their seats, Ben Burke sent Calasanctius into the lead, but Joseph Coughlan edged the Bish ahead by one. It was tit for tat as Burke replied with another huge three-pointer for a two-point lead, and when Ronnie Oguekwe stretched this lead out to four points the momentum was swinging in favour of Calasanctius.
However Tony Exeonu took the following defensive rebound and went coast to coast for a two point score, and with 20 seconds left on the clock Calasanctius' attempt to hold up the ball led to a steal from Dean Coughlan who left the game level with less than 12 seconds to go.
Unfortunately for Calasanctius, the referee indicated the ball had crossed the line when on the offensive, giving Bish the last chance to score, which Gaffney did with aplomb
CALASANCTIUS COLLEGE (GALWAY ): Myles Loughran, Evan O’Rourke (6 ), Oisin Holland (6 ), Paul Carre O’Donnell, Peter Kennelly, Ben Burke (23 ), Roniel Oguekwe (21 ), Conor McAnespie, Jake Morgan, Jacob Rafferty Green, Fintan O’Regan, Marvin Olayemi.
ST JOSEPH’S THE BISH (GALWAY ): Dean Coughlan (3 ), Ben Powell, Joe Coughlan (11 ), Brian Gaffney (24 ), Rory O’Sullivan, Steven Nally, Kuku Dayoka, Mac O’Brien, Cian Carroll, Aonghus McDonnell (12 ), Tony Ezeonu (8 ), Brian Clifford.
MVP: Brian Gaffney (The Bish )