Tradehouse Central Ballincollig 68
Abbey Seals Dublin Lions 78
TRADEHOUSE Central Ballincollig were stunned into submission by Dublin Lions in the Men’s Division 1 National League play-off semi-final at Ballincollig Community School on Saturday.
No excuses for the mid-Cork club they were chasing the game from the opening minutes of the first quarter and although gradually reducing the deficit their challenge petered out in the closing minutes.
Not one supporter on either side expected this result but in truth, Ballincollig were exposed for poor defending on a day when they should have been battling for every ball.
In the opening exchanges it was evident the Lions were going to take the game to Ballincollig and with Tiernan Howe posing them all sorts of problems the visitors soon commanded a 12-5 lead.
Credit to the Lions they signed a quality American in Conroy Baltimore who played in the Super League with Swords Thunder without getting too much court time.
In the games this scribe had witnessed Baltimore playing in the Super League he looked an average player and that shows the gap in the quality between the leagues. In this game, he looked like an NBA player as his athleticism was startling at times as he finished the game with a 28 point tally and 22 rebounds.
What puzzled me was why the Ballincollig American Andre Nation wasn’t challenging for rebounds as it hurt the Cork side in every sense of the word.
There is little doubt Nation is an effective player in the offence court but his defence would have to improve to compete with best Americans in the Super League.
It was hard to believe that Ballincollig trailed 26-9 with 2.36 remaining in the opening quarter before they responded to the wake-up call. Ciaran O’Sullivan and Nation led the fight and by the end of this period, they had reduced the deficit to seven points 30-23.
Colin Murray nailed a three-pointer on the restart and suddenly it was game on.
To be fair the game was a lot more competitive in defence during the second quarter but another negative for Ballincollig not alone in this game but throughout the season was their inability to have a solid point guard in place.
When you have a player of Ciaran O’Sullivan’s shooting ability you need a point guard who can run plays that can set up him up for clear looks.
In this game and many more throughout the season various players were given the opportunity of bringing the ball up court but in this game it was hard to figure out what they were running in the offence court.
The closing minutes were competitive, but Ballincollig looked a side that were ready to pounce despite trailing 44-40 at the interval.
On the restart, the basketball tempo increased and Ballincollig were getting clear looks as the Lions consistently turned the ball over.
One Ballincollig player that may feel aggrieved is Jack Kelly who sat out the majority of the third quarter.
It was plain to see Ballincollig struggled on the boards for the majority of the game and Kelly is the one player they have willing to have a go in that department.
Finally, the large home crowd were buzzing as a Ciaran O’Sullivan three-pointer edged them into a 55-53 with 2.54 remaining.
The Cork side didn’t build on this and entering the last quarter trailed 60-58.
No score for either side in the opening three minutes of the fourth quarter but when American Nation was fouled out after a foul and technical with six minutes remaining the writing was on the wall for Ballincollig.
In the closing minutes, Ballincollig refused to throw the towel in but it wasn’t to be as over the four quarters they were always second best.
In the end, it was a sad ending to a campaign that saw them win 22 of their 24 league games up to this, as well as the President's Cup, as their dream of competing in the Super League next season was shattered.
Scorers Tradehouse Central Ballincollig: A Nation 23, C O’Sullivan 16, I McLoughlin 10.
Abbeyseals Dublin Lions: C Baltimore 28, T Howe 19, F Hughes 10.
TRADEHOUSE CENTRAL BALLINCOLLIG: C Murray, D Corkery, P McSweeney, A O’Connor, I McLoughlin, A Lordan, C O’Sullivan, S O’Sullivan, S O’Sullivan, D O’Sullivan, Daire O’Sullivan, J Kelly, A Chandler, A Nation, I James.
DUBLIN LIONS: S Mohammed, J Maguire, T Howe, T Ludbars, F Hughes, N Kavanagh, A O’Reilly, C Baltimore, I Markiewicz, R Caverley.
Referees: J Malysko (Dublin), A Cleary (Carlow).