Letterkenny Blaze had an unprecedented four teams in Cup Finals at the Basketball Northern Ireland Junior Cup Finals last weekend.
The U16 girls claimed the Cup in a thrilling encounter and the U14 girls also won against Queens BC.
In addition, Blaze have three teams who have qualified from the North West area to participate in the All Ireland Club Championships in Gormanston Park, Co Meath over the next four weekends.
U16 Girls Final
Letterkenny Blaze 36 (20) v (13) 31 Andersonstown Tigers
MVP: Maria Kealy Letterkenny Blaze
The U16 girls met Andersonstown Tigers from Belfast in their Cup Final. Shannon Cunningham was effective for Letterkenny Blaze using good footwork to create space to finish.
Blaze’s full-court pressure saw them force turnovers which Maria Kealy finished on. Blaze lead 10 – 3 at the end of the first.
The second quarter saw some better execution on both sides of the court for Tigers, some crucial rebounds helping them get out in transition.
The tempo increased with both teams looking to move the ball quicker and try and get some advantages before defences were set. Sineid Otoo, Cunningham and Kealy were the three getting to finish with Kealy in particular impressive when she put the ball on the floor. It finished Blaze 20 – 13 Tigers.
The third quarter saw Tigers keep up their tempo getting to the basket and finishing.
Otoo and Shauna Higgins kept Blaze ticking over. Blaze lead was cut to 3, it was 26 – 23 going into the fourth which saw the game pace increase again with both teams looking to get to the basket. Cunningham and Higgins were getting into their stride for Blaze but it was Kealy who moved the ball and found the open Cunningham that kept Blaze in front and Blaze won out on a 36 – 31 scoreline.
Maria Kealy also won a League All-Star award for her many MVP performances throughout the league.
The U16 Girls have also won the North West league having come undefeated through it.
They will represent the North West Area at All Ireland Club Championships in Gormanston later in April and we wish them every success also.
Letterkenny Blaze: Scorers – S. Cunningham 14, S. Higgins 4, S. Otoo 6, M, Kealy 12, Coaches: Lynda McGuinness and Jay McMenamin
U16 Boys Final
Belfast Star 58 (32) v (22) 36 Letterkenny Blaze
In a highly anticipated last game of the finals, the U16 boys took to the court. Just two baskets separated Blaze from Belfast Star over the course of the league season.
The first quarter lived up to the billing as it went back and forth.
Letterkenny Blaze’s big man Killian Gribben did some damage at both ends of the floor, he had a block and rebound on defence and scored on a nice roll off a ball screen.
For Belfast Star it was also their big man that started well, Iandle Alvarado who had two quick baskets and a nice block. Thomas Reynolds was running the point for Blaze and was in top form in this opening quarter, it finished 13 – 12 to Star.
The second quarter was where the game turned, Star burst out of the starting block with 6 points without reply from Alvarado, Niall Morgan and Tiernan McCloskey got in on the scoring act as well.
This burst put daylight between the two teams and Blaze were never able to cut into it. Star’s transition was awesome and when Blaze got bodies in the paint to stop them, they kicked it out to the shooters who knocked them down.
Reynolds and Gribben kept putting points on the board for Blaze but it was not enough and poor transition defence meant that Star opened the lead to ten points, 32 – 22.
The third quarter was more balanced, Blaze did a better job on defence with James O’Donnell, Daire McGuire and Liam Dowling getting into some rhythm offensively. Despite their efforts, Blaze couldn’t eat into that lead, it finished 43 – 32 to Star.
The final quarter saw Star up their defensive intensity again. Dowling and Gribben never gave up and did hit a couple of scores but Star’s stifling defence ensured the win and their record going undefeated for the season, winning both league and cup. It finished Star 58 – 36 Blaze.
In this group, Thomas Reynolds and Killian Gribben were awarded League All-Star Awards for their MVP performances throughout the league.
The U16 boys will also represent NW in All Ireland Club Championships in April in Gormanston.
Letterkenny Blaze: Top Scorers – K. Gribben 19 T. Reynolds 8, J. O’Donnell 4, L. Dowling 5. Coaches – John Grant and Adam Leadley
U18 Women’s Final
Ulster University Elks 76 (37) v (24) 70 Letterkenny Blaze
In the final game of day one, league champions Ulster University Elks got off to a quick start. Blaze was struggling to find their form and while Shannon Cunningham and Laura Kealy got on the scoreboard for Blaze it was a tough quarter offensively for them.
It finished Elks 21 – 6 Blaze.
The second quarter saw Blaze settle into the game with the Kealy sisters starting to find their rhythm, Blaze did a better job of driving into the lane and not forcing the shot over the length of Rafferty.
Caoimhe Kelly, Katie McGovern, and Aoibheann O’Grady all hit shots when the ball was kicked out and Blaze did a better job of forcing Elks to work for their scores, At half time it was 37 – 24 to Elks.
Letterkenny Blaze to their credit never lay down in this game, after that opening quarter most team would have but they had reduced the deficit to 13 and this was to continue in the third.
Cunningham and Maria Kealy got going in this quarter, Kealy knocked down some big shots from the outside and the ability of Cunningham to put the ball on the floor and get past her defender was crucial to Blaze having their best quarter scoring 24 points.
Elks were not lying back with Rafferty and Mulligan carrying the offensive load. Going into the fourth it was 58 – 48 Elks.
The final quarter saw Blaze break the 10 point deficit quickly and you saw some belief that they might get right back into this game.
Shauna Higgins and Kealy hit some shots and converted on some poor passing by Elks to get the difference down to 6 but Maguire hit another big triple to steady the ship for Elks, Mulligan and Rafferty continued to finish under pressure and you felt that was it but again Blaze found a way to come back, Cunningham hit a couple of quick scores and got it to a 4 point deficit with less than three minutes to go but no closer.
Elks Maguire and Mulligan made their free throws at the end to keep a 6 point gap and Elks were double winners again at this age group. The game finished 76 – 70.
Shannon Cunningham and Laura Kealy were both awarded League All-Stars for their MVP Performances throughout the league campaign.
This group was also successful in getting to the quarter-final stage of BI National Cup but were unfortunately defeated by Brunell BC who were eventual Cup finalists.
Letterkenny Blaze: Top Scorers – L. Kealy 17, S. Cunningham 25, M. Kealy 12
Coaches – Ian McGeever and Teresa Kealy