Ireland are in final four action in the FIBA European Championships for Small Countries this evening with the men’s side facing Armenia and the women’s side taking on Andorra.
Only two of the current women’s squad were part of Ireland’s last European campaign in 2009, but Head Coach Mark Scannell feels everyone has adapted well to the intensity and the local climate in Gibraltar.
“We’re used to the heat now and we’re used to the pace of it and to be honest I think we have the deepest squad in the tournament,” said Scannell.
“Our bench has been superb and our starters have gotten us into games. We’ve tried to impose ourselves on teams and that’s what we’ll look to do against Andorra.”
Ireland have never lost a women’s semi-final in this competition but will be facing a refined Andorra side for the very first time.
“They play a Spanish style of basketball which is easy to watch and they get up the floor very quick,” said Scannell. “They’re a bit smaller than us but I’ve been impressed with them throughout the tournament and you’ll see two strong sides pressing high in this one.”
Andorra are the top three-point shooters in the competition, while Ireland have given more minutes to the bench than any other team.
In the Moldovan capital of Chisinau, Ireland’s men are preparing to take on Armenia for the first time in their semi-final.
Naturalised American Bryant Dunston is expected to bring his Euroleague experience to bear on Ireland’s rear guard, but it is Ireland’s Brian Fitzpatrick who is the top scorer in the tournament after 33 points in Thursday’s Pool A decider against San Marino.
“Armenia are definitely the most talented team we’ll be facing in the tournament so far,” according to Fitzpatrick. “We can’t let us beat ourselves, we have to go out with confidence, make our shots and not turn the ball over. It’s exciting to see where we are going as a basketball nation.”
Teammate Stephen James is one of 11 men who made their senior debut against Gibraltar on Tuesday and is excited about entering the knockout phase of the competition.
“It’s great to get this far in our first senior tournament in seven years,” said the shooting guard. “We feel we are ready for the challenge. Once we’re clued in and stick to our defensive principles, we’ll give ourselves a shot at winning the game. “
FIBA Men’s European Championships for Small Countries:
Ireland v Armenia, Chisinau, Moldova, 4.15pm
FIBA Women’s European Championships for Small Countries:
Ireland v Andorra, Tercentenary Sports Hall, Gibraltar, 5.30pm.
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