Maree basketballers contest their third successive men’s u-20 National Cup final on Saturday in the National Basketball Arena (2pm ).
The current holders, Maree will defend their title against Blue Demons, having overcome Neptune of Cork by 70 - 51 in last weekend’s semi-final.
Maree, who started their title defence in October with a huge 137-47 win over Longford Falcons, will be confident heading into Saturday’s decider. An experienced side, seven of the squad play in Maree’s senior side which continues to set the pace in the National League.
Maree remain top of the Southern Conference following Saturday night’s victory over Blue Demons.
The tie, played in Calasanctius Gym Oranmore, saw Maree win well, 82 – 56. Nineteen-years-old Colm O’Hagan, who will feature in this weekend’s u-20 final, was the team’s high scorer with 17 points and he and another six players will line out in the final with the same Cork club.
Maree went into Saturday’s game with a 7 – 1 record, their sole loss to date being away to same Demons in the UCC Mardyke in October. With Demons since slumping to a 2 –7 record, Maree were keen to put the record straight.
Right from the tip-off, they took control of the game. Threes from Liam Conroy and Con Crowley gave the hosts an early lead, before Danny Finn added six to put Maree 18 – 7 ahead at the mid-point of the first quarter. Demons’ captain Shane McCarthy tried to keep his team in touch with eight points, but the period ended with Maree amassing a big 27 points to Demons’ 11 with Sarunas Zvirblinskas and Darren Callanan in control of Maree’s defensive boards.
O’Hagan’s three got the second quarter under way, and he had notched 10 by the half, as had Danny Finn, to move the lead to 45 – 24. It was Maree’s to lose from there. Apart from the usual tight Maree man-to-man defence, the hosts secured more than their share of offensive rebounds, and this too was a factor in the comfortable home win. Zvirblinskas, who finished with a double double of 13 points and 14 rebounds, took eight Demons’ boards, while Callanan pulled down four.
In the third quarter Maree made sure there was no comeback, limiting the Lee-siders to 15, while adding 18. Eight Maree players scored in the final quarter as Maree eased to a solid 82 – 56 win.
In the Southern Conference, the state of play in win–loss records is; Maree 8 – 1, St Brendan’s Tralee, Titans, St Mary’s Castleisland 6 – 3, Blue Demons 2 – 7, Neptune 1 – 8. In the Northern Conference, it stands; Ballon 7 – 3, Portlaoise 6 – 3, Tolka Rovers 5 - 5, Ballina 4 – 5, Waterford 1 – 9.
Maree: Sarunas Zvirblinskas (13 ), Danny Finn (12 ), Darren Callanan (4 ), Niall Higgins (2 ), Dave Hansberry (9 ), Liam Conroy (11 ), Con Crowley (8 ), Colm O’Hagan (17 ), Ken Hansberry (5 ), Ciaran Harte, Brian Kelly.
National Cup finals
Galway clubs are well represented in this year’s cup finals. First into action is Claregalway which contests the u-18 women’s decider against AOS Security Glanmire (Cork ). This final takes place tomorrow at 6.30pm.