THE Quinnipiac Bobcats celebrated, but it was something both they and Edel Thornton were becoming accustomed to.
Having won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) for the sixth year on the spin, the Connecticut school’s ambition was growing.
However, despite some stellar performances in the NCAA Tournament in the last two years, including a memorable upset of Marquette and Miami before falling to eventual champions South Carolina in 2017, with Edel becoming the first Irish player to ever reach the Sweet 16 of the tournament in the process, this year was not to be.
South Dakota State were coming off an outstanding season of basketball, ranked five seeds ahead of their opponents. Having been up 11 at the half, some big shots in the fourth kept Quinnipiac at bay, defeating Tricia Fabbri’s side 76-65.
And as much as Edel Thornton would have liked to finish her Division 1 basketball career with a bang, she knows the value that lies in her four years across the Atlantic.
In a recent tribute to her school, Edel says it’s a place that has “given me not only an endless supply of memories but a family and a home across the Atlantic Ocean that I will forever hold close to my heart.
Back on this side on the ocean, a team that Edel’s name was synonymous with for a time is making waves in the Women’s Super League. Singleton’s SuperValu Brunell gave Liffey Celtics a good run in the Hula Hoops National Cup Final, as did they in their last game of an impressive season in the Champions’ Trophy semi-final this weekend.
In a close run event, the depth of the Dublin outfit once again got the better of Thornton’s former club, Brunell falling by a single basket in the end.
In her last season with Brunell four years ago, Edel led an underrated U18 team to a National Cup final, knocking off favourites DCU and Meteors, the latter on the receiving end of a dazzling 42-point performance from Thornton, before falling to old rivals Glanmire by one point in the National Basketball Arena.
“That year was huge for us, no doubt,” Thornton explains. “We just all came together as a team and even though we didn’t finish the job, we showed a lot of people that counted us out what we were about.”
The year previous a 16-year-old Edel became the first player to receive MVP honours in U18 and U20 National Cup finals, willing her side past Glanmire before dropping 35 against Killester players four years her senior the following morning.
It was this show-stopping, see-it-to-believe it talent that yielded comparisons to the greats of the game, while also drawing the attention of coaches abroad.
After a freshman season in the Quinnipiac that was disrupted by an ankle injury, coach Tricia Fabbri gradually worked Thornton into the rotation.
Starting five games out of 17 and averaging just over three points per contest, it was clear the foundations were being laid for a prolific spell at the collegiate level.
By November Edel had her first double-digit game with 10 against Holy Cross, reaching the same total that March in Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) in a victory over Maine.
While her involvement that post-season was promising, the school failed to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, affectionately known as anything from the “Big Dance” to “March Madness” (the Yanks love a good nickname).
That tournament run came in Thornton’s sophomore year, historic victories over Marquette and Miami resulting in the first ever appearance of an Irish player in the 'Sweet 16'.
Not unaccustomed to performing on the big stage, performing under such pressure came as second nature to the Gurranabraher native.
“When I left Cork I knew I was coming to a winning programme,” Edel says upon reflection of that year. “Everyone on the team just wants to win, it’s as simple as that really.”
When Quinnipiac drew old foes Miami in the tournament the following year, a 14-point display in Connecticut saw the side advance only to fall to powerhouse UConn in the next round.
In her final year, a performance that matched her career-high in points came in the MAAC Tournament Final against Marist, Thornton good for four threes and 16 total points in a 30-point rout of their opposition.
However a deeper run in the tournament wasn’t to be, the Bobcats losing out to South Dakota State by 11 points.
Despite the loss, the four-year tenure of the Cork woman has certainly left a mark in the college in Hamden, Connecticut. And as the school looks to continue its fine form in years to come with the programme, they certainly will miss the guard in the number 11 jersey.
One party that will be glad Edel is graduating this summer, however, is Meteors Basketball Club in Dublin.
With Edel set to continue her education in the capital, she will further her basketball career with the club she hung 42 on five years ago in the U18 National Cup semi-final.
And with the club finishing strong this season in the Northern Conference of the Women’s Division 1, another big progression with someone of Thornton’s calibre in the squad is surely on the cards.
She will make a huge difference to Meteors one she settles into her new life in Dublin. Cork’s loss is their gain.