Ireland were made to work hard but eventually saw off San Marino 79-55 to finish top of Pool A in the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries in Chisinau.
A third win in as many days means Colin O’Reilly’s side will face Armenia in tomorrow’s tournament semi-final.
“Not our best performance but definitely one we needed,” was player-coach O’Reilly’s summary. “San Marino cut and played hard so it was good for us to get this type of game before the semi-final.”
Armenia await in the last four with a squad featuring Bryant Dunston.
The naturalised American centre plays club basketball with Anadolu Efes of the Turkish Basketball League and Euroleague Ireland were guilty of another poor start as San Marino punished nine first half turnovers with nine extra points on the board. The Microstate led by seven points at one point, but Ireland were back on top once the error-count slowed down.
Brian Fitzpatrick hit 12 points in the second quarter alone while Adrian O’Sullivan picked up four points off the bench and a 14-0 run helped build a 37-29 lead at the break.
San Marino still had players that could do damage. 37 year old Andrea Raschi showed why he was once of Italian Serie A1 standard with 10 first half points and an 8-2 run after half time left just two points between the sides.
Back to back three-pointers proved a major tonic. Paul Dick hit the first from the baseline before Fitzpatrick pulled up for another on a fast break. It was the Bucknell Alumnus’ fourth on a night he finished with 33 points. Ciaran O’Sullivan’s triple late in the third restored Ireland’s double-digit lead and San Marino’s challenge eventually faded.
Meanwhile Ireland’s senior Women will play the winners of Andorra and Wales in their semi-final in Gibraltar tomorrow.
The squad had a recovery session in the Mediterranean yesterday after two wins in two days.
“We’ve set ourselves up nicely,” said Claire Rockall. “We can watch the quarter-finals today and get ready for the semi-final tomorrow.
“We knew if we won our pool games we’d give ourselves an extra day’s recovery, which is important especially with this heat and the intensity we play with. Malta look quite good in the other group and play similar basketball to us but we can’t get ahead of ourselves and think about playing them. This is a competition for small nations and we really think we can compete.”
Kyle Hosford* (2), Paul Dick* (13), Jordan Blount* (4), Colin O’Reilly* (11), Brian Fitzpatrick* (33), Stephen James (5), Adrian O’Sullivan (4), Jordan Blount (4), Ciaran O’Sullivan (3), Keelan Cairns (2), Kevin Lacey, Conor Gallagher.
Here’s a little extra sport: BallTalk TV look ahead to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved