Maree boosted with Ballon win ahead of home tie with champions

Maree Basketball Club is seeking a third win on the trot after a fantastic start to their National League campaign.

And this weekend’s challenge sees them up against last season’s league and cup winners, St Mary’s Castleisland, at 7.45pm in Calasanctius College gym Oranmore.

However their confidence has been boosted consideraby after a superb result away to the 2009 champions Ballon.

It came a week after their opening home win over Tolka, but last weekend they had to dig deep to come from behind to take the victory by 78-68.

This was probably the Oranmore-Maree team’s best performance since entering the league last season. Ballon were heavily fancied, a bigger and more experienced team, and strengthened further with the off-season signing of Tolka star shooting guard Ignatavicius.

Ballon started the game moving the ball to great effect and bombarding Maree’s man-to-man defence with no fewer than five three-pointers, two from Ignatavicius and three from Cicenas. Maree guards Liam Conroy, Danny Finn and Con Crowley found it difficult to get shots off, although Sarunas Zvirblinskas and Darren Callanan playing at low post, behind the Ballon zone, were getting on the ball and causing Ballon problems. Zvirblinskas hit five free throws and nine points overall in the quarter, while six points from Callanan and a Conroy three completed Maree’s scoring, with the first quarter ending Ballon 24 - Maree 18.

Maree stepped up their defence in the second period, but the Ballon lead widened to 13. However inspirational shifts from Crowley and Colm O’Hagan saw Maree put fierce pressure on the Ballon backcourt, with excellent steals and lay-ups from Crowley and Conroy, and then a big O’Hagan three with less than a minute to half-time. The half ended with Ballon ahead 43 – 34, but on the back foot for the first time in the game.

The third period was a gritty stalemate. Each team hit 16 points. For Maree, Danny Finn was good for four, as were Conroy and Zvirblinskas. The period ended with a typical rip-roaring Crowley steal and lay-up.

Although still ahead 59 -50, Ballon’s fast break was being stifled by Maree’s transition defence, while their foul-count was mounting. Maree upped the pace and reeled Ballon with Peter Finn putting Maree ahead at 62 - 60 for the first time.

Although Ballon struck with a three, Crowley hit two free throws, Dave Hansberry scored five crucial points, and Danny Finn drove for two. With less than two minutes left, Maree had grabbed a five-point lead which they extended to 10 as Ballon bowed out.

Maree: Con Crowley (7 ), Colm O’Hagan (6 ), Danny Finn (8 ), Darren Callanan (6 ), Niall Higgins, Liam Conroy (12 ), Peter Finn (19 ), Dave Hansberry (5 ), Sarunas Zvirblinskas (15 ), Ken Hansberry, Linas Mitkus.

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