THE Address UCC Glanmire completed a clean sweep of women’s national basketball trophies on Saturday when they beat Singleton’s SuperValu Brunell by 14 points in the MissQuote.ie Champions Trophy final at the National Basketball Arena: 82-68.
This was the proverbial game of two halves. Glanmire dominated the first. Brunell the second, and Timmy O’Halloran’s team deserve great credit for never giving up when they so easily could have done so at the break.
They were 25 points down, but in Shannon Ryan and Kwanza Murray Brunell have two great competitors who refused to lie down and they almost got their team back into this final.
In fact, they played so well in the second half, with three minutes to go, Brunell were in with a chance of winning this final.
It was never really a contest in the first half. Glanmire got off to a flyer and were too good for their opponents, who despite trying as hard as they could were outclassed from the opening tip to the end of the first half.
There is no disgrace in that. Glanmire have been doing this to teams all year and when they are on form and in the mood, no team can live with them.
This was also going to be a difficult game for Brunell to win but once they lost Edel Thornton to injury during the week, their chances of winning, small and all as they were, had practically disappeared.
It was a power-packed performance from Mark Scannell’s team who have been the best team in the country all year, winning the league and cup in style earlier in the season and can now rest safe in the knowledge that this year belongs to them.
They are a great team, full of great leaders and players. They have the best coach in the league in Mark Scannell and his team plays with a style, energy and intelligence that is a joy to watch.
In Claire Melia, he has the best player in the league by a huge distance. She is unplayable at times and the brightest star on this team.
Aine McKenna is also a star, has been for years and it came as a huge surprise to many that she was only picked on the second All-Star team of the year. She should have made the first All-Star selection.
Casey Grace is getting better every season and in Americans, Tierney Pfirman and Carrie Shepard they have two players who know what needs to be done to win titles. Melia and Shepard were automatic choices from all the coaches who voted for the All-Stars.
UCC Glanmire led by 15 at the end of the first quarter (32-16) and by the half, it was 25, 60-35 with no way back for a Brunell side who were trying to win their first senior women’s national title at their fourth attempt in a final.
The wait will have to go on for another 12 months at least.
The problem for Brunell was twofold. Firstly, they were not good enough in the first half and in the second when they threw caution to the wind, upped their defensive intensity and went for broke they didn't have enough firepower to get over the line despite the performance of Shannon Ryan.
At times in the second half this final looked scrappy, people were saying it was brutal, a poor final, but nothing could be further from the truth. Glanmire were never going to maintain their intensity from the first half when they were winning by more than 20 points and Brunell were bound to hit a purple patch at some stage in the game.
They are a team full of character and they were bound to respond to the tough words from their coach at the break.
Their best play came in this third quarter when they outscored Glanmire 16-7.
Shannon Ryan was superb for Brunell in the third maintaining her average of eight points per quarter over the first three to take her total to 24.
Brunell were the better team for much of the fourth quarter and with under four to play they were only behind by eight, 74 to 66 and momentum was with them.
Glanmire were now struggling to score, even Claire Melia missed several shots from under the basket she would normally make in her sleep, but the champions still found a way to win.
That's what makes them great champions.