A great weekend for Galway basketball was complete late Saturday night in Castleisland Kerry, when Maree advanced to two National Cup finals.
The club’s u-20s got past fancied Belfast Star in their semi-final, while the u-18s lived up to their favourites’ tag in beating St Vincent’s of Dublin. Earlier in the day, in Killarney, an under-strength u-18 women’s team came up just short against Glanmire.
The National Cup finals’ weekend is January 23/24/25 in Tallaght. The u-18s will square up against Templeogue, who defeated Lisburn, while the u-20s face UCD Marian, who got past Killester.
Maree u-18s 55
St Vincent’s 42
An enthralling u-18 semi-final became a fierce defensive battle. The Maree fast break spluttered, with a lot of transition passes overshooting their mark, and a high turnover rate, but two threes and 10 overall first-quarter points from Liam Conroy helped keep Maree in the hunt, with the score 14 -14 at the end of the first. The second quarter was as intense, and despite three free throws from Ken Hansberry, St Vincent’s built a five-point lead before scores from the industrious Ciarán Harte and Colm O’Hagan pulled it back to 26-24.
With the athletic Con Crowley and Conor Foley playing excellent defence, scoring was low, with the lead changing four times. With one quarter to go, Maree had a slender one-point lead before Conroy blocked a Velasquez drive to the hoop, and O’Hagan pounced to extend the lead to 45-40. With the game almost up, Conroy, who finished with a game-high 21 points, immediately hit another before Maree made six of eight free throws for victory.
Maree: George Rahmani (4 ), Colm O’Hagan (8 ), Evan Fahy, Ciarán Harte (2 ), Conor Foley (6 ), Brian Kelly, Colin Whelan, Liam Conroy (captain, 21 ), Dónal Greene, David Burke, Con Crowley (4 ), Ken Hansberry (5 ).
Maree u-20s 71
Belfast Star 62
Star of the u-18s, Liam Conroy, was also on the ball for Maree u-20s as Belfast Star had no answer to his 10 opening quarter points. Able assistance came through David Hansberry with 9, Colm O'Hagan with 5, and Jack Conroy with a 2 and 1. Ciaran Considine also put in a shift that reinforced Maree’s control of the paint and the boards. The Oranmore-Maree outfit had built a 24 – 8 lead by the end of the first quarter. Star, however, steadied themselves and pulled the lead back to 43 - 30 at half time, before reducing it to 10 in the third. Then Maree upped the pace and intensity again. Con Crowley was good for seven crucial pointsas Maree rebuilt their 13-point lead. In the final period David Hansberry (who had a game-high 19 ), Liam Conroy, and George Rahmani pulled down big rebounds, and although Star rallied to close the gap to five, a strong Maree finish sealed a convincing win.
Maree: Ciarán Considine, Colm O’Hagan (15 ), Céimin Burke, Conor Foley (2 ), Jack Conroy (captain, 3 ), Liam Conroy (18 ), Dáire Greene, George Rahmani, Con Crowley (9 ), Michael Rockall, David Hansberry (19 ), Kenneth Hansberry (5 ).
Glanmire u-18 women 59
Some great steals by outstanding guard Carol McCarthy and accurate shooting by Caitriona Foley helped Maree into a 7-2 lead, but Glanmire, inspired by Emily O'Callaghan, made it 10-9 to give Glanmire the lead for the first time. They pushed on from there to lead 17-13 after the first buzzer. Maree again started brighter at the start of the second to level 19 apiece. Casey Grace landed a big one to push Glanmire back in front, but Carol McCarthy underlined her Irish international credentials with two threes, while Caitríona Foley showed her class with a big three in reply. At 25-25, it was nip and tuck from there to the break, with Maree just shading it 33-31. Those roles were reversed in the third with Glanmire taking a 44-37 lead, The Galway women staged a remarkable fight back to level again with three minutes lef, but Glanmore sealed the game with an interception and drive, and then a big three to deny the defending champions.
Maree: Carol McCarthy (co-captain, 22 ), Tena Thornton (4 ), Kate Lyons (2 ), Sarah Drislane, Orla Trayers, Christina Brennan (co-captain 2 ), Nicola Duffy (6 ), Aisling Finn, Caitríona Foley (17 ), Áine Delaney, Lua Rahmani (inj ).