Talking points: Brilliant Ballincollig can pose Maree different problems 

Emporium Cork Basketball’s magical journey to their first ever League title championship game continued on Sunday with a 84-76 win in front of a sold-out Mardyke Arena
Talking points: Brilliant Ballincollig can pose Maree different problems 

JOY: Emporium Cork Ballincollig players, Jose Jimenez, Pau Cami Galera and Adrian O'Sullivan celebrate after their victory UCC Deamons in their semi-final Super League match at the Mardyke Arena, Cork. Pic: Dan Linehan

Emporium Cork Basketball’s magical journey to their first ever League title championship game continued on Sunday with a 84-76 win in front of a sold-out Mardyke Arena. Just three weeks ago Ballincollig had to win to even make the playoffs and they entered the knockout section of the season as the lowest seed in the Southern Conference. A huge double overtime away win against Eanna was followed by Sunday’s brilliant performance against Demons. Trailing by as much as nine, Emporium kept plugging away and their second-half performance was as good as they’ve been this season. Jose Gonzalez was brilliant with 27 and John Dawson showed more flashes of excellence with 21. They will go into the final as underdogs against Maree but they provide match-up problems for the Galwaymen in a way no other team really does. If Keelan Cairns and Adrian O’Sullivan perform next weekend, Ballincollig could get their hands on their first ever Super League silverware.

Flat end to Demons' dream season 

It was disappointment for UCC Demons as they came unstuck in the Mardyke. Demons will be disappointed more by the nature of the eight-point loss than this end to their maiden season back in the league. One of the highest scoring teams in the league, Demons managed just 29 points in the second half as they struggled to deal with a clever match-up zone from Ballincollig. MJ Randolph and Kyle Hosford were kept in check and Demons couldn’t find an answer. Danny O’Mahony will be disappointed that the team carried their offensive struggles into defence and the energy levels of Ballincollig just weren’t matched. Despite coming up short on Sunday, Demons are well and truly back as a power in the Super League and they will be expecting big things next season.

University of Galway Maree up for the double 

Despite being tested by Belfast Star, Maree look like the heavy favourites for the league title after another impressive display on Saturday in Galway. Charlie Crowley’s professional trio of Jarret Haines, Zvonimir Cutuk and Rodrigo Gomez combined for 70 points and constantly made life difficult for Star as they won 87-75. 

Haines was particularly effective from mid-range and he made playing zone for Star difficult. On the other end, the big European duo forced Star to be a jump shooting team and ultimately Belfast couldn’t hit enough shots to beat them that way. 

This has been the story of the year so far for Maree with Haines running the team so effectively and the inside duo forcing teams to try unsuccessfully to beat them from the perimeter. Now Maree are back in the National Basketball Arena and with a chance to win their first-ever League title.

Star come up short

Shon Briggs tried everything he could on Saturday to carry Star through to the final but they just didn’t have enough offence to win. Briggs had 30 points but was restricted at the start of the fourth by Gomez as Maree took control of the game. Part of the problem for Star was that they had to use Briggs to slow down Haines on the other end and it ultimately proved too much for the brilliant American. 

Star will wonder what life could have been like if they still had Max Cooper but realistically they were beaten by the best team in the country. One question Star will have to figure out for next year is how to get more scoring in the paint. The Quinn twins are largely jumping shooters and Max Richardson was this year too. Star need an inside threat and someone who can get into the lane and create. All of the other pieces are there so they should be back in contention next year.

DCU Mercy set for Glanmire showdown 

For much of the season Mercy have struggled offensively and haven’t been able to find a way to score enough to win games. They’ve struggled from beyond the arc all season but Lindsey Abed solved that issue with six threes on Sunday. Mercy have been strong in recent weeks after the signing of Amelia Motz from Dublin Lions and their depth in scoring options was the difference in this game. The absence of Sarah Kenny for Meteors limited their offence to just their big three of Taborn, Finn and Melia and ultimately Mercy were able to control them, limiting the Southsiders to just 58 points.

Meteors' mixed season comes to a close 

Reflecting on Meteors season isn’t easy. The team had no real history together and were playing under a new head coach Niall Berry. Even with only one American they looked like the team to beat for large parts of the season. A bad matchup in the Cup Final against Killester seemingly derailed their season as they really struggled from January on. Ahead of the Cup Final Kieran Shannon asked whether this was a seminal moment as Meteors were potentially about to build the next dynasty. Less than two months later the larger question is who will be back next season for Trinity. Dayna Finn has signed to play Aussie Rules Football and Claire Melia hasn’t seemed as comfortable as she was with other teams. If the group come back next year with the right professionals they will be favoured again, but currently that’s a big if.

Glanmire’s double still on 

The League and Champions Cup double is still on for Glanmire after a comprehensive 94-67 win against Wildcats on Sunday. Brittany Byrd scored nine of her 28 points in the crucial third quarter which Glanmire won 29-10. Yet again it was the depth of scoring options at Glanmire’s disposal that won the game as Wildcats just couldn’t keep up offensively. The rivalry between Glanmire and DCU Mercy is the best in women’s basketball in Ireland and will be a fitting conclusion to what has been a very competitive season.

Wildcats outgunned in Cork 

It was a step too far for WIT Wildcats as they were overpowered by the league champions. Tommy O’Mahony was really happy with how his young team finished the regular season, which included an 83-81 win over Glanmire. Unfortunately, they couldn’t replicate that win on Sunday in the Mardyke as they struggled to score in the second half. Despite the loss, Wildcats are on the cusp of competing for trophies and with age on their side, it looks like they won’t be far away if they can get their Americans right next season. Depth may still be an issue, but more young talent looks capable of stepping up to support the Hickeys and if that helps Wildcats will be a big problem for other teams.

UL Eagles set to battle Ulster University for Super League spot 

Next Saturday will see either UL Eagles or Ulster University return to the Super League after they disposed of Tolka Rovers and Malahide respectively. UL have been leaning on some of their former Super League champions Neil Campbell, Stephen King and Jason Killeen to get back to this stage. Ulster University have already won the National Cup this year and with players like Conor O’Sullivan they will feel the time is right to get back to the Super League.

High Performance 3x3 

There was interesting news out of Basketball Ireland during the week as they announced a first ever high-performance programme for 3x3 basketball. It’s the most logical high-performance outlet for Sport Ireland to support as with a smaller playing pool than other countries Ireland could still be competitive for future Olympics at 3x3 level. The new programme is targeted at u23s and will run from April to October. Long term it will be interesting to see how the 3x3 and 5-on-5 national team programmes co-exist as Basketball Ireland will be wary of similar issues that the IRFU are facing with their women’s rugby 15s and 7s teams at the moment.

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