A wise old buzzard once told us ‘better win a bad game than lose a good one’ so Dublin’s DBS Eanna won’t mind the quality of Saturday’s Men’s National Cup semi final win over Warriors from Tralee.
But boy did both sides stink out a capacity Neptune Stadium for too long and too often. Website repeats should be after the watershed.
The Superleague new boys from Rathfarnham won’t care a jot though. Darren McGovern and the club are building something special. A first promotion to the Superleague, now a first Cup final appearance.
They’ve heard the one about an excessive international flavour, but McGovern says just come and see how much of an input they are making in the club with the up and comers.
They found the necessary groove of sorts after half-time to leave listless Tralee scratching for solutions. Most of the rest of us were scratching our heads. Tralee coach Pat Price called it a “rock fight” afterwards, but semi-finals are for winning.
Warriors’ failures in the blue riband of Irish basketball continues.
This one, however, was particularly perplexing. Price’s side got very little from their Americans – Jonathan Lawton was 2 for 15 from the field while recent recruit Andre Berry sat out the final stages, presumably injured.
But it would be one-eyed to blame the paid imports. Scarcely anyone in Warrior uniform showed up in Cork. Paul Dick and Kieran Donaghy grafted and perhaps Daniel Jokubaitis (12 pts) was the pick of the Kerry players, but the reigning Superleague champions were so far off kilter it was hard to believe.
“Did we learn anything from playing Eanna last week,” lamented Price. “Evidently not.”
Eanna may rely heavily on non-Irish players but there was nothing missing in terms of their appreciation for the Irish tradition of Cup semi final weekend in Cork. MVP Joshua Wilson (24 pts) and Stefan Zecevic (20) led at both ends and it was the American’s killer three with 4.35 left that put an end to any faint hope of a Tralee resurgence (64-55).
How bad was the first half though? Well from the field, the sides were a combined 19 of 81 efforts, and Tralee were at 20% for their 11 for 41. It was tough to pick up anything positive but Tralee went to their lock room up two (26-24).
When Donaghy stole possession and Quigley stuffed the two for a 39-33 lead with 5-14 left in the third, one fervently hoped it might spark the game into life. It certainly roused Eanna, and Wilson finished the half as he’d started it – making the difference. They led 42-41 after Q3, the primary consolation for neutrals was that both had the opportunity to redeem the semi with a titanic last quarter.
Fat chance. Should we give a little more credit to the respective defences? Eanna coach Darren McGovern believe so. Their video review of last weekend’s loss in Tralee focused on defence and stopping Tralee’s offensive prowess under the boards. “We played to keep them to 15 points a quarter, and we nearly did that,” he smiled after.
It was a devastating blow to Tralee talisman Kieran Donaghy, who has still failed to make a Cup final with the newish Tralee club. He tried hard to rally something in the third quarter - he made a scoring pass off the floor, made the steal for a Quigley score and then forced an Eanna pass out of bounds all within the space of 90 seconds. Around then, Tralee crept five ahead, 39-33 as things started to get particularly tasty on the floor.
Wilson made a fast break count with the basket and the bonus as Eanna edged back in front (42-41). Jokubaitis started the fourth with a three for Tralee (47-44) but that, oddly, was as good as it would get for Price and Tralee. Hilary Netsiyanwa made three and Marks Tomic repeated the dose to give Eanna a 59-47 advantage with 7.02 left, the biggest lead of the day. Eanna smelt blood and weren’t going to let go now.
Tralee helped them on their way, underlined by a poor offensive effort and shot selection (24 for 86, 28%) This was underlined by, though not exclusive to, Jonathan Lawton who struggled more than most from the field but persisted with questionable shooting when he was clearly struggling.
With 4.35 left, Joshua Wilson showed him how with a killer three for Eanna, putting them borderline out of reach for Tralee at 64-55.
Only the officials’ table was rapt thereafter.
Top scorers for Eanna: Joshua Wilson (24), Stefan Zecevic (20), Mark Reynolds (14).
Top scorers for Tralee: Paul Dick (16), Eoin Quigley (16), Daniel Jokubaitis (12).