Loftus Recycling 84
Team Loftus Recycling, Ballina, lost out to Titans, Galway, in the National Basketball League division one quarter-final in Ballina Sports and Leisure Centre on Saturday night in a highly entertaining contest that had to go to added time to decide who would progress to the semi-finals next weekend. The sides finished normal time tied at 77-77 and were on level scores three times during the additional five minutes before the Galway side sneaked ahead with just 11 seconds left on the clock to claim a famous victory and a semi-final place.
While Ballina played some of their best basketball of the season in this game, they will rue the many scoring opportunities they missed during the first half of the game. Indeed the difference between the sides is probably best illustrated by the number of three-point baskets scored with Titans landing no fewer than 12 for the game compared with just four by the home team. Instead, Team Loftus were largely dependent on inside scores where Taofic Mustapha, Peter Papic, and Willie Popplewell all did well for the Ballina men despite numerous shots coming off the ring in the early stages of the match.
Despite poor shooting by Team Loftus in the early stages, the sides were level 16-16 at the end of the first period with bulk of the Ballina scores coming from Popplewell and Mustapha while Sean Carroll hit half of the Titans scores. In the second quarter, the lead changed hands several times as both teams struggled for supremacy. Peter Papic came into the game more for Ballina and hit seven points including a big three-pointer while Mustapha scored another two baskets as did Colm Leonard who had joined the game at that stage. At half time Titans led by three with the score at 38-35.
Player/coach Liam McHale joined the action at the start of the third quarter but his presence failed to prevent Titans building up a 12-point lead within five minutes with three-pointers from Rimyydas Visockas, Sean Carroll, and Paulius Peldzius who hit a tally of six such shots for the match. Nothing was going right for Ballina in the early stages of this period with poor shooting and a persistent failure to get their own offensive rebounds. Gradually, however, McHale made his presence felt; he got a great steal in his own half of the court and passed to Dara McGarrity who raced to the basket for a badly needed score for the home team. McHale and Papic combined well for another good basket by the latter and Mustapha and Popplewell added two more baskets each while Paul Barrett landed another to narrow the gap to just two points at the three-quarter stage 57-59.
Mustapha, who had his best game of the season for Ballina, hit the first score of the fourth quarter to level the match. This was followed by a huge three-pointer from McHale to put his side into a three-point lead. It was a real ding-dong affair from there to the end and the crowd certainly got full value for their money with some excellent basketball by both sides in a highly competitive game. Titans hit another four three-pointers, but Paul Barrett landed one for Ballina and hit two baskets from inside the arc with McGarrity hitting another. McHale and Mustapha hit two further baskets and, with just two minutes left in normal time, Team Loftus led by six points 77-71. However Titans’ superb outside shooting was again used to good effect and Visockas and Peldzius each landed big three pointers to level the match and sent it to overtime.
In the five minutes of overtime, Visockas and Barrett exchanged three-pointers before McGarrity put the home team into the lead. Carroll and Visockas scored again for Titans and Barrett landed the last home score of the game with just 37 seconds left on the clock. Ironically, with just 11 seconds to go, it fell to former Ballina player Paul Freeman to put Titans into the lead for the last time. Papic had a chance to level the game yet again with just 11 seconds on the clock but his shot came off the ring and Titans gained possession for Visockas to add the final score on the buzzer.
Loftus Recycling: Paul Barrett (14 ), Dara McGarrity (7 ), Peter Papik (14 ), Taofic Mustapha (18 ), Colm Leonard (7 ), Neil MacHale , Mark Cunningham, Liam McHale (7 ).
Titans: David O'Keeffe (6 ), Tom Costello (2 ), Patrick O'Neill, Sean Carroll (19 ), Paul Freeman (6 ), Rimvydas Visockas (21 ), Paulius Peldzius (20 ), Nicholas Carolan, Colin Tyrke.