A shock? Maybe not on the basis of Killester’s league form, but certainly a surprise of sorts, as the defiant Dubliners outgunned favourites Glanmire down the stretch at Neptune Stadium Saturday to book a spot in the National Cup final for the first time since 2016.
Karl Kilbride’s girls hung in when under the cosh in both halves - and against a monster 38-point performance from Glanmire’s Shrita Parker - before eventually wearing down and surging past the Cork side for a hugely gutsy win. The self-belief this should instill for a decider against DCU Mercy or Brunell in two weeks time is significant. Killester haven’t won a Cup since 2001 and redemption was on the mind of coach Kilbride afterwards.
That they have. It was Glanmire’s first-ever Cup semi-final defeat – “the law of averages says it had to happen sometime”, sighed coach Mark Scannell afterwards. He lost his second American Tatum Neubert for half the game after she rolled an ankle three minutes before half time. Both coaches agreed afterwards it was a big moment in the game.
Not that it should detract from Killester’s stickability throughout. Even in the final four minutes when Glanmire seized back the initiative, Killester made the big plays – Michelle Clarke’s three with 1.40 remaining to put them 82-79 in front was a game-winning decision.
The semi-finalists traded scores down the stretch – a big Rebecca Nagle three was cancelled by Parker for Glanmire. When the Virginia Beach standout teed up Casey Grace for a lay-up with just under seven minutes remaining, it seemed as if Glanmire had quelled the resistance (70-65).
They should have known better. Scannell’s side had jumped out to an early 17-4 lead. Parker was in double figures within four minutes of the tip off. Her 10 point start propelled Mark Scannell’s side into a 17-4 Q1 lead. It all had a fairly routine feel to it.
Too good to be true from their point of view. Almost by stealth, the Dubliners played their way back into the half. Two scores from ex-Sacramento State guard Adela Randle El and a big three from Aisling McCann made it 22-14. Six ft guard Christa Reed added another, and from nowhere, it was a six-point game (22-16).
Aine McKenna has had a big campaign thus far as a Glanmire leader, and the Listowel girl steadied her colleagues again with a two and an assist for American 6’2” guard Tatum Neubert that put Glanmire 26-16 ahead with 1.10 left in the first quarter. They didn’t bring the comfort of a double-digit lead into the locker room though – Rebecca Nagle bagged three with 27 ticks left in the quarter.
IT’S @HulaHoopsIE CUP SEMI FINAL WEEKEND!!!!
First up this evening is the U20 women’s semi final between @plaoisepanthers and @WITWildcats 💪🏻 Tip off @ 8pm in Neptune Stadium #HulaHoopsCup #20x20 @20x20_ie #CantSeeCantBe #womeninsportire pic.twitter.com/ehLS8KwNcm— Basketball Ireland (@BballIrl) January 10, 2020
This would be a recurring theme. Glanmire in front, but never comfortable. And their discomfort was to get a whole lot worse when ex Colorado Stater Neubert crumpled under the offensive boards with an ankle roll. Glanmire still led 35-34 but it only served to convince the visitors they were back in business.
A Casey Grace tip-in off a Scannell shot, plus two from Parker gave Glanmire the 44-38 half time lead.
The Killester momentum was obvious though. American Christa Reed (who finished with 23) was now a big influence, finishing the third quarter with 17 points. Though Glanmire’s McKenna checked their progress with a baseline basket, Killester eventually reeled in and overtook Glanmire via Ella McCloskey. With 3-48 left in the third quarter, Killester led for the first time and by its end, they had moved into a 62-56 lead.
For Glanmire coach Scannell and his strapped up Neubert, it was now or never, and the American limped back into the game. It sparked something. Twelve seconds into the final quarter, she went in for two and even when Nagle nailed a big three for Killester, Parker – what a performer – went down the other end and did the same.
This was about to get extra tasty. Parker hit yet another three and two more to put the Cork girls 68-65 in front, and a lay-up for Grace made it a five point game.
Killester done? No way. Randle El glassed in a three and with 3.20 left hit another to go back in front, 75-74. Glanmire’s McKenna hit one of her free throws to level, but first Reed, then a big basket from Michelle Clarke with 1.40 left, gave Killester an edge.
The decisive score? McCann had time to run down some clock but went for glory and made the three to put Kilbride’s girls 82-77 in front. Neubert got two back and they’d one more shot at salvation when Killester’s Reed was called for an offensive foul with ten seconds left.
However Parker’s forced effort – she is human after all – was high and wide.
Top scorers for Glanmire: Shrita Parker (38), Tatum Neubert (18), Annaliese Murphy (7), Casey Grace (6)
Top scorers for Killester: Christa Reed (23), Adela Randle El (21), Aisling McCann (14), Rebecca Nagle (12).