Maree have claimed Ireland’s top honours in u-20 men’s basketball after avenging last year’s agonising one-point defeat to UCD-Marian in Saturday’s National Cup final.
In what was a tough, tense encounter aainst the current champions, Maree prevailed by 70 - 57 to grab the club’s fourth national cup in three years.
Captain David Hansberry had the honour of receiving the cup, while Liam Conroy, the game’s high scorer with 21 points, took the MVP award.
Ken Hansberry, Ciaran Harte and Colm O’Hagan celebrated their second national title in less than a week, having won the u- 19A All-Ireland Schools Cup with Calasanctius College Oranmore, while this was a third cup title for Con Crowley, George Rahmani, Colm O’Hagan and Liam Conroy, adding the u-20 crown to two u-18 wins. Liam Conroy also won the MVP award in last year’s u-18 final.
A nervous and physical opening period saw UCD-Marian jump into a 5-0 lead as they controlled the rebounds at both ends of the court. Cathal Finn was their main threat, finishing the game with 16 points, but eventually, after a series of rushed shots, Maree clawed their way back into the game, galvanised by a Colm O’Hagan lay-up. A free throw from Liam Conroy was followed by an O’Hagan three after a huge Ciarán Harte rebound, while George Rahmani settled to the task of containing Daniel James in particular. At the end of the first quarter, Maree had recovered to share the spoils 1 –11, with O’Hagan good for seven and David Hansberry for three.
In the second quarter, Maree’s offence featured a trio of three-pointers - two from Conroy and one from Ken Hansberry. Although UCD-Marian were still marginally the better rebounding team, Maree gradually settled to the task with Con Crowley giving the James’ twins a torrid time, setting the tone for the Maree defence for the rest of the game. A sweet exchange of passes between the Hansberry brothers also produced a good inside basket, helping Maree shade the quarter by 29–28 with no Maree player on more than two fouls.
David and Kenneth Hansberry shared Maree’s first 11 points after the break, while the ultra-aggressive Maree defence began to shut down the UCD-Marian attack, limiting the Dubliners to just eight points. With Conroy pulling the strings, Maree grabbed a 46-36 advantage, and sealed the deal in the fourth with great composure and an unrelenting defence.
Unbeaten throughout the campaign, Maree had successfully disposed of all challengers - Queen’s, Limerick Lakers, Killester and finally cup holders UCD-Marian. Two of UCD’s players Jack Conroy and Cathal Finn share an unusual record, both have been on the losing side for two years in a row - this year with UCD and last year with Maree -while another former player, Oranmore’s Claire Rockall picked up the women’s u- 20 title and MVP award, with Glanmire of Cork.
Maree u-20: Con Crowley (7 ), Colm O’Hagan (11 ), Ciarán Harte, Céimin Burke, Conor O’Hagan, George Rahmani, Michael Rockall, Andrew Brennan, Conor Graham, Dáire Greene, David Hansberry (13 ), Liam Conroy (21 ), Kenneth Hansberry (16 ).