Loftus Recycling :65
Tolka Rovers :63
The home supporters were treated to a highly entertaining game in this division one national league tie in Ballina Sports and Leisure Centre last weekend. A bus load of young supporters from the Kiltimagh Giants Basketball Club added considerably to the atmosphere as Loftus Recycling played some of their best basketball of the season to take the points against Dublin side Tolka Rovers, whom Ballina had already beaten in the corresponding away game in October. The sides were level several times in this game and only two points separated them at the end as Tolka hit a late three-pointer right at final buzzer. The loss of Toafic Mustapha, on five fouls, at the start of the final quarter almost cost Ballina the game but, boosted by home support, they held out for a memorable victory.
While Loftus Recycling got the first score of the match, with Mustapha hitting the target in the opening exchanges, Tolka Rovers led for most of the first quarter before player/coach Liam McHale entered the fray and landed an equaliser just before the end of the period to leave the score at 15-15. The home team went into the lead early in the second period with baskets from McHale and Peter Papic. Further baskets from McHale, Mustapha, and Ronan O’Malley were cancelled out by a master class in shooting by the game’s top scorer, Tolka captain, Sean Kilmartin, who hit 12 points in the second quarter alone, including three three-pointers, to put his team into a six point lead with just two minutes left in the quarter. Loftus Recycling appeared to be in some trouble at this stage but three baskets in quick succession, from Mustapha, left the sides level again (31:31 ) at half time.
In the third period, the sides were again level several times as both teams struggled to get the upper hand. Dara McGarrity had his best period of the game for Ballina, landing two good three-point shots. However the strength of Tolka’s bench was evident as several of their players hit baskets, with Vaides Brazdeikis, Glen Wang, Dermot Madsen, and Roman Simo all getting on the score sheet. Despite the pressure from the Dubliners, Ballina finished the quarter stronger with Papic, in particular, coming into the game more and Blaise Devanney also getting his name on the score sheet to push the home team into a nine-point lead at the three-quarter stage 51-42.
The loss of Mustapha, at the start of the final period, was a big blow to Ballina as the young man from Uganda had performed well under the boards. Loftus Recycling had also lost Ronan O’Malley to injury and he was replaced by his brother Colin who worked hard throughout the court. The home team regrouped and McHale called on all his experience to get the most out of his young team, setting up several offensive moves which the visitors found hard to counter. At the other end, however, Tolka kept up the pressure and cut the Ballina lead to just a single point, 61-60 with less than a minute left on the clock. At this point Tolka missed a great opportunity to take the lead when they were awarded two free throws but failed to convert either. At the other end of the court, Blaise Devanney grabbed a basket for Ballina, to extend the home lead to three points, and, with just 17 seconds left on the clock, McHale hit two points from the free throw line to secure a home victory despite a last gasp three-pointer from Tolka’s Roman Simo.
Loftus Recycling will travel to Waterford on Saturday week, February 5, to take on local side, AOL Waterford, in WIT Sports Hall at 7.30pm in their next game.
Loftus Recycling: Liam McHale (16 ), Taofic Mustapha (15 ), Blaise
Devaney (4 ), Dara McGarrity (11 ), Peter Papic (19 ), Ronan O’Malley (2 ), Colin O’Malley, Neil McHale.
Tolka Rovers: D Madsen (7 ), S Kilmartin (28 ), R Simo (6 ), D O’Leary (6 ), G Wang (6 ), J Brady (2 ), V Brazdeikis (4 ), P Ashton, D Maskon.