Ireland’s men proved too strong for Malta 91-34 while Ireland’s women endured a war of attrition against Moldova, winning 77-53.
For the men in Chisinau, captain Kyle Hosford finished with a game-high 19 points in their 57 point win and felt it was a better performance all round: “We improved as a team today so that’s a real positive. If it was a tougher game, we’d be in a different situation but right now we’re just happy to be in a semi-final.”
Malta hung in in the first quarter but ultimately couldn’t cope with Ireland’s depth and size advantage. Five players finished with double-digit scores with Colin O’Reilly completing another double-double and dominating the boards with Brian Fitzpatrick.
“We wanted to set the tone at the start,” said O’Reilly. “But we were a bit tentative until the second quarter where you could see the bit of toughness about us and we shared the ball much better.”
The player-coach made two changes to the starting line up with Jordan Blount and Paul Dick joining himself, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Kyle Hosford. The early impact was similar to yesterday’s win over Gibraltar as Ireland rushed into a 7-0 lead with a mix of open shooting and fast-break dunking. Malta had the game back to 15-12 after 10 minutes, but were locked down in the second quarter while Jordan Blount revelled in the open court to push Ireland 43-15 clear at half time.
Ireland are guaranteed a place in the last four either as Group A Winners or runners- up. That will be decided by their final game against San Marino today.
In Gibraltar, Ireland’s Women secured top spot in Group A with a 77-53 win over Moldova. It was a tougher test than the scoreline suggested as the Moldovans paid for their uncompromising defence with the loss of Ana Gavrilita on five fouls after just 22 minutes. They were up seven points in the first quarter and were shooting at 75% from the three-point line in the opening half. It prompted a change from the bench.
“We executed a zone press and I think it caught them a little bit by surprise to be honest,” said assistant coach Francis O’Sullivan.
The 28 degree heat was felt in the halls of Gibraltar’s Tercentenary Sports Centre and Ireland made full use of their bench in regaining the lead. It was substitutes Danielle O’Leary and Sinead Deegan who led the charge in the second quarter before a 6-0 run from Claire Rockall put Ireland in the driving seat.
“They’re as physical a team I’ve seen in a long time,” said O’Sullivan. “In that kind of heat, it’s great that we have such a strong bench to rely on.” Ireland will learn their next opponents after tomorrow’s quarter-final.
Ireland 91 Malta 34
Kyle Hosford* (19), Paul Dick* (4), Jordan Blount* (16), Colin O’Reilly* (11), Brian Fitzpatrick* (10), Adrian O’Sullivan (4), Lorcan Murphy (11), Ciarán O’Sullivan (2), Stephen James (2), Keelan Cairns (8), Conor Gallagher (4), Kevin Lacey.
Ireland 77 Moldova 53
Áine McKenna* (10), Sarah Woods* (9), Claire Rockall* (11), Grainne Dwyer* (7), Aoife McDermott* (4), Casey Grace (8), Amy Waters (3), Danielle O’Leary (12), Michelle Clarke, Sinead Deegan (11), Áine O’Connor (2), Aoife McDermott (4).