UCC Demons 88 EJ Sligo All-Stars 81
UCC Demons return to the SuperLeague as champions after they had an ugly win over Sligo All-Stars on Saturday in the National Basketball Arena in the First Division InsureMyVan.ie league final.
While the basketball wasn’t pretty at times, finals are all about winning and for Demons they completed the double, following up on the cup success in January.
On a day when they had very few stars, Stevan Manojovic was the stand-out player hitting 16 points, but four of these came from three-pointers when the game was on the line. Christensen top-scored with 19 as well as Tala Fam Thiam, but honourable mentions must also go to Jack O’Leary and Ryan Murphy who did their bit when called upon.
UCC Demons led by seven at the end of the first quarter 21-14 with most of their scoring coming from inside the key from Christensen with six and Tala Fam Thiam with eight.
Sligo hung on in there thanks to some great offensive rebounding and putbacks by Keith Jordan including one incredible dunk.
The Demons' lead was up to 11 at the break, 45-34 but it wasn’t as a result of great team basketball.
They were playing as individuals and struggled on offence in the second quarter, but some incredible three-point shooting from various players, Christensen with two to help take his half time total to 14, Jack O’Leary and Kyle Hosford with another at vital times in the second kept them ahead of Sligo, who were very dangerous on the break.
Demons were very poor in the third quarter. They struggled on offence and continued to play individual basketball much to their cost.
Fouls were now also an issue for Demons with Dave Lehane, picking up his third and Kyle Hosford his fourth with over four minutes to play and Sligo were back in the game trailing by six, 56-50.
But when their need was greatest Stevan Manojovic came to Demons' rescue with two huge threes to first make it 59-52 and then 62 to 52, but Sligo were not going away.
Missed free throws (6/12) and technical fouls were now also an issue for Demons and when Zack Powell hit a huge three for Sligo to beat the third-quarter buzzer, there was only three between the sides, 62-59 and momentum was with the Northern Conference champions.
Demons needed to find their balance and rhythm quickly in the fourth or this game would be lost.
They were not running their plays and taking bad shots before another three from Manojovic two minutes in settled their nerves and saw them lead 69-63.
Coach Danny Mahony quickly called a time-out to get his team to calm down, play disciplined defence, stay with the plays and stop turning the ball over.
Tala Fam Thiam added a quick basket and Demons were back in control 71-63 with over six to play, but worryingly for the Cork side, top scorer Toby Christensen picked up his fourth foul.
Manojovic hit another three for Demons and the lead was now nine, 74-63 with five to play.
Hosford picked up his fifth foul with over four to play which brought Jack O’Leary back into the game with 10 between the teams, 76-66.
Lehane followed soon after also picking up his fifth foul and Demons were running out of experienced players to see them over the line, ahead 76 to 67 and just over three to play.
With just under a minute to go it was 80-75, but two Jack O’Leary free-throws and another pair from Ryan Murphy under huge pressure made it 84-77. Sligo were still fighting to the end though.
With Sligo fouling to stop the game, Murphy made two from four from the line before Manojovic hit another pair to see Demons over the line. Worthy champions by seven points.
T Christensen 19, Tala Faim Thiam 19, S Manojovic 16.
K Jordan 25, Z Powell 18, C Lally 14.
J O’Leary, S Manojlovic, S Carney, R Murphy, K Hosford, D Lehane, T F Thiam, M McCarthy, T Christensen, C Looney, C Ryan, C Cuff, D Cuff, K Moynihan, B Horgan.
Z Powell, O O’Reilly, C Lally, K Jordan, J Hayes, E Donaghy, S Snee, M McHale, R Young, J Henry, A O’Shea, C Byrne.
A Quinn, A Quirke, G O’Leary.