NATIONAL CUP SEMI-FINAL:
UCC Demons 87 Killester 86
Hard to stomach if you’re Killester, hard to believe if you’re UCC Demons after the Cork side gritted out a remarkable come-from-behind National Cup semi-final win last night.
Forget being 71-56 down at the end of the third quarter at a raucous Neptune Stadium.
Demons were being bossed around by Jonathan Grennell’s side, who unhinged Demons’ defence with impressive ease. Every hint of a Demons revival was snuffed out by Isaac Westbrooks, who finished with 20 points, and Kieran O’Brien, who bagged 14.
The victory would have been particularly sweet for Ballincollig man O’Brien, now exiled in the capital, but it was another Ballincollig man, Adrian O’Sullivan, who sparked Demons’ gutsy revival.
“That’s the way we’ve been all season,” reflected player/coach Colin O’Reilly. “We’ve had a lot of come-from-behind wins, but that’s what happens when you rotate the players as much as we do. But we get the job done.”
O’Reilly, a hot talent since his teenage years, delivered a 19-point first-half tour de force. Without him Demons might have been dead. But when he fouled out with nine minutes of the fourth quarter remaining, Demons looked done for, 71-57 down.
Enter Adrian O’Sullivan, the son of good basketball stock in former Demon, Francis, and his wife Grace. He had the ignominy of an early fluffed lay-up but when he settled, he was the step-up player Demons needed in O’Reilly’s absence, with 13 invaluable points, including a dazzler that brought the Cork side to within a point (77-78) as the regulation clock ran down.
That climax seemed a long way off as Isaac Westbrooks drained two big threes in the last two offences of the first half, making it a 44-35 half-time edge to Killester.
The top two sides in the league, with one lost game between them, had shared 35 points in the first quarter (18-17 Demons) but as the half progressed it was the visitors’ Alan Casey, Kieran O’Brien and their Trinidad import Michael Bonaparte providing the offensive gunpowder.
O’Reilly’s outside shooting kept Killester honest, but every time Demons rallied — a steal and dunk by Hosford firing the crowd — Killester responded in kind, as they did after Hosford scored with two from Casey.
When Bonaparte alley-ooped to put the Dubliners 52-43 in front, you’d have got long odds on the Cork side finding the wherewithal, much less the offence, to halt their momentum. Bonaparte hobbled off momentarily, but Killester turned for home with a 15-point wind in their sails.
How were their hopes torpedoed? O’Reilly said afterwards that his side never panicked, but two threes from captain Shane Coughlan and Adrian O’Sullivan gave them the platform to believe it was possible, making it 63-74.
“There’s great belief in the group, and we don’t turn on each other when things are going wrong. We battle our way out of situations,” their player coach said.
American Lehmon Colbert summed Demons up — sluggish and hesitant in the first two periods, he got a taste for the battle as Killester began to wilt.
He picked up two and the bonus, Hosford weighed in again and as the clock ticked under three minutes, the yawning chasm had shrunk to four points, 74-78.
Bonaparte fouled out with 2.17 remaining, a killer time to lose a court leader, especially after O’Sullivan’s remarkable drive and bucket made it a one-point game.
The Ballincollig youngster went to the line with eight seconds left and the comeback in his hands, but one from two sent it towards overtime.
Killester had eight seconds to rescue themselves, but O’Brien missed the chance.
Adrian O’Sullivan half-courted a Hail Mary to win it, but that would have been outrageously harsh on the Dubliners.
Overtime it was. However, the psychology of these things made it extremely difficult for Grennell to convince his players of anything other than they had blown their big cup final chance.
Isaac and Michael Westbrooks and John Behan weren’t for submission, and when Shane Coughlan missed a lay-up and fouled out on the rebound, the capacity for another momentum swing-change loomed.
Not so. Hosford nailed two from the line — some going in overtime for a man who had three fouls after eight minutes of the first quarter. Colbert added two and with 30 seconds of the extra five minutes remaining, Demons could run it out with an 86-83 lead.
If only. Adrian O’Sullivan’s topsy-turvy night continued when he turned the ball over with 30 seconds left, but Behan missed badly under the board for Killester to allow Demons savour the remaining dead seconds.
Demons scorers: Colbert 24, Colin O’Reilly 20, Adrian O’Sullivan 13, Hosford 11, Coughlan 11, Niall O’Reilly 4, Ciaran O’Sullivan 3, Anon 1.
Killester scorers: Isaac Westbrooks 20, Bonaparte 16, O’Brien 14, Casey 12, Behan 6. Michael Westbrooks 6, Roe 6, Gomez 6.
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