Maree came agonisingly close to overcoming National Cup champions St Mary’s in Oranmore on Saturday.
Unbeaten in the league, Kerry had taken a 50 - 27 half-time lead, but Maree staged a remarkable fightback, only to lose in overtime by 90 - 88. It finished on a controversial note with an un-whistled deliberate Mary’s foul on Conroy with less than two seconds to go as Maree sought to inbound the ball following a time-out.
Maree’s Liam Conroy was the game’s high scorer with 24, while Declan Wall was best for Mary’s with 23.
The visitors commanded the opening half with wave after wave of fast breaks to go into a 10 - 2 lead.
However Maree, with versatile guard George Rahmani joining big man Linas Mitkus on the injury list, were having a hard time making an impression in offence until Sarunas Zvirblinskas settled to the task with a series of strong post-ups and drives. Scoring Maree’s first eight points, he steadied things a little, but the Galway hosts still finished the first period an ominous 25 -14 behind. Despite five Maree points from the in-form Con Crowley, St Mary’s carried on where they had left off with another 25 points, while Maree were held to just 13 points.
Maree switched their defence and upped the intensity after the break and the pressure told almost immediately with captain Darren Callanan grabbing the first of his five steals, and Crowley, Colm O’Hagan and Conroy snaring further Mary’s ball. Conroy got Maree’s first basket on his way to 14 third-period points.
Although their defence still leaked some baskets, Maree took the period 26-13, reducing the deficit to 63–53.
St Mary’s were rattled clearly rattled as Maree continued their assault. Six Maree players scored in the fourth period, together with an even bigger defensive effort against the much taller and older Kerry team. David Hansberry hit 10 precious points, while Zvirblinskas kept up the pressure with 7 points. Maree finally overhauled their visitors, but a Galvin basket saw Mary’s retake the lead 79 – 77 before Conroy was at the end of a fast break to tie it up at 79 – 79 at the final buzzer.
Three from Ken Hansberry and baskets from Zvirblinskas, Conroy and Callanan kept Maree in touch, but a couple of baseline Mary’s scores saw the fixture poised at 90-88 in their favour when Maree called that last time-out with less than two seconds on the clock.
Maree: Darren Callanan (5 ), Con Crowley (14 ), Colm O’Hagan (4 ), David Hansberry (16 ), Sarunas Zvirblinskas (22 ), Eddie Forde, Liam Conroy (24 ), Ken Hansberry (3 ).