Andre Nation leads the way as brilliant Ballincollig basketballers beat LYIT and return to the cup final for the third year

Andre Nation leads the way as brilliant Ballincollig basketballers beat LYIT and return to the cup final for the third year
Andre Nation of Tradehouse Central Ballincollig in action against Andrew McGeever of LYIT Donegal during the Hula Hoops Presidents Cup semi-final. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Tradehouse Central Ballincollig 88 LYIT Donegal 80

TRADEHOUSE Central Ballincollig are back in the Hula Hoop Presidents Cup final for the third year in a row after a hard-fought semi-final against LYIT Donegal at the Parochial Hall.

The holders and league leaders in Division 1 were pushed all the way and trailed at the break but, with a 34-point haul from Andre Nation, and some tough defence in the second half they were worthy winners.

Ciarán O'Sullivan in action.
Ciarán O'Sullivan in action.

The first period was a tight affair with both teams struggling on the scoring front. LYIT were playing different zone defenses, and Ballincollig found it difficult to penetrate. 

However, the Cork team excelled themselves defensively to lead by a single point at the end of the opening quarter. The game improved offensively in the second quarter with American ace Nation getting more involved but LYIT shot the lights out from range to lead by five points at the half. 

Ballincollig’s Spanish point guard Inigio Zabolo then showed all his class and skill to combine with Nation offensively in the third period. Dylan Corkery stepped up and did an excellent job locking down LYIT star American player Manny Payton while Jack Kelly and Daniel O'Sullivan, before limping off, made vital contributions off the bench, which offset the loss of Ian McLoughlin through injury.

As a consequence, the Village were nine points up entering the final period. 

In the final period, LYIT threw everything at them but the experience of cousins Ciarán and Ronan O’Sullivan saw them nail vital baskets coming down the stretch.

Ballincollig captain Ciaran O’Sullivan was a relieved man after.

"This was the toughest game we got all season. We knew that they were very good shooters and we prepared for that all week in training.

“The most important thing was that as a team we never panicked, and stayed with our game plan. Then Andre and Inigio stepped up when we needed some scores at important times. 

"However, all the other boys did their jobs superbly which was the most pleasing aspect of the game. We still have a bit to go to reach our full potential, but we will enjoy this victory, and get ready to defend the cup in two weeks."

LYIT coach Niall McDermott was proud of his team. 

“I have mixed emotions to be honest as I thought we played very well today. To be fair we came up against one of the best teams in the country, and we just fell short.” 

The game got off to a slow start with both teams looking nervous, and that showed in the scoring stakes with the score 5-4 after three minutes of play. LYIT guard Payton then shot a dagger from outside the arc to lead 9-7 midway through the period. Ciaran O’Sullivan shot a similar effort for Ballincollig in the closing minutes of the opening quarter to lead 16-15.

LYIT come out for the second period with Charlie McKinney and Payton and shot the ball extremely well to jump into a 28-24 after 14 minutes of play. Nation, who was now getting more involved offensively, nailed two consecutive baskets to tie the game 31-31, however, baskets from Dom Uhi and McKinney gave LYIT a 39-34 lead at the half.

In the third quarter, Nation and Zabola combined well offensively for Ballincollig to regain the lead 47-41 four minutes from the restart. The play of the game was when Daniel O’Sullivan gave a superb pass to Nation to slam dunk to lead 65-56 entering the final quarter.

LYIT started the final period with McGeever and McKinney shooting consecutive three-pointers to reduce 75-64 midway through the period. The cup holders never panicked coming down the stretch and showed all their composure with Ronan O’Sullivan particularly effective in the post.

Top scorers for Tradehouse Central Ballincollig: Andre Nation 34, Inigio Zabola 14, Ciaran O’Sullivan, Ronan O'Sullivan 13 each.

LYIT Donegal: Andrew McGeever 19, Charlie McKinney 15, Manny Payton 14.

TRADEHOUSE CENTRAL BALLINCOLLIG: C Murray, D Corkery, I Zabola, L O’Sullivan, D Fleming, R O'Sullivan, C O’Sullivan, D O’Sullivan, C Blount, J Kelly, A Nation, I James.

LYIT: N McDermott, M Payton, K Gribben, A Temple, C McKinney, D McCafferty, A McGeever, M Cannon, D Curran, D ierney, D Uhi, C Kelley, M Garcia.

Referees: Mark Dillian (Dublin), Jecek Malysko (Portlaoise), Niamh Callaghan ( Belfast).

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