Maree lost a pulsating National Cup quarter-final by 71 -77 in Ballina on Saturday night.
With less than two minutes remaining and behind 71 - 73, Maree had three chances to level affairs, but in the end they failed to unseat experienced hosts and cup specialists, Ballina. led by dual star Ronan McGarrity and player-coach-legend Liam McHale.
Maree’s 18-year-old Liam Conroy was the game’s high scorer with 29, with McGarrity hitting 25 for the Mayo men.
Maree, although missing big man Linas Mitkus, who is out for the season, and experienced guard Danny Finn, showed great composure against the full-strength Ballina, led by dual-star Ronan McGarrity and player-coach-legend Liam McHale.
Maree, playing man-to-man defence throughout, shaded the first quarter 19 -16 on the back of six Liam Conroy points, with four each from captain Darren Callanan and Colm O’Hagan. Eight more from Conroy and five from Sarunas Zvirblinskas – who pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds and snagged three steals - saw Maree ahead at the half with 34 points, having held Ballina to a remarkably low 29.
Con Crowley, who had three steals in the game, was one of three Maree players to ultimately foul out in a game which saw Maree called for 23 fouls overall, and it was in the third quarter that Ballina overtook Maree, despite six from Dave Hansberry.
Maree’s foul troubles mounted, but they maintained their poise, and with Liam Conroy good for seven points, and Ken Hansberry for five, it went right down to the wire. With Ballina rattled in front of their home support, had Maree converted one of their opportunities to take the game to 73 - 73, it could have been a sensational Maree win.
MAREE: C Crowley (5 ), C O’Hagan (5 ), E Forde, J Conroy, Callanan (C, 6 ), G Rahmani, L Conroy (29 ), D Hansberry (8 ), S Zvirblinskas (12 ), K Hansberry (6 ).