Two points was all that separated winners Ballon from Matt O’Flaherty Chemist Titans in a nailbiting national men’s division one basketball final at the weekend.
The County Carlow side eventually secured the crown 80-78 after both teams treated the crowd to a tremendous exhibition of basketball.
A blistering opening to this one saw some superb shooting from both sides. Giedrius Trakauskas found his range early on, shooting a superb three for Ballon to bring the scores to eight apiece. Titans were well up for this contest, however, and Gintaras Sedebskis was integral in establishing a 14-10 lead for his side at the midway point in the quarter. Titans were certainly showing more steel in offence, exemplified by a 21-19 score at the end of the opening quarter.
Ballon redoubled their efforts at the beginning of the second, Irmantas Griskas hitting three and drawing the foul to give his side a three-point lead. It was a superb quarter with both sides tussling for supremacy in what was a hugely physical encounter. Paulius Peldzius helped Titans stay in contention and soon afterwards gave them the lead with a fine three-point shot.
The sides were level early in the third quarter as Imantas Griskas again weighed in for Ballon. The sides were so evenly matched throughout, it was impossible to pick a winner as the sides traded baskets throughout the third. It was Titans who held a marginal advantage heading into the final quarter, leading 63-61.
The fourth quarter was a hugely passionate affair with both sets of fans noisily attempting to spur their side over the line. There was some splendid attacking talent on display, none more so than from Will Archambault who produced a breathtaking dunk to edge Titans in front. Still there was nothing to separate the sides with just three minutes on the clock,71-71.
Ballon were back in front with 90 seconds remaining thanks to a huge shot outside from Mazvydas Cepliauskas. A huge score from Conall MacMichael gave Titans a two-point advantage with two remaining before Ballon responded when Aurimas Statkus hit three for Ballon to give them a two-point lead. With just 16 seconds remaining Paul Freeman superbly fired home to square the teams once again, but with just seconds on the clock Mazvydas Cepliauskus took advantage of space inside to drive to the basket for what turned out to be the decisive score. Titans had pulses racing with a shot on the buzzer, but it was to be Ballon’s day.