UCC DEMONS' Jack O’Leary proved the unlikely hero for his side when they somehow snatched the U20 Pat Duffy Cup final from Tolka Rovers at the National Basketball Arena on Sunday in the final minute of a pulsating final.
O’Leary, by his own standards, had a very poor game up until the 29th minute when he hit his first basket of the game. Up until then, he was non-existent in the final. He was in foul trouble, had missed nine of his 11 shots, had six turnovers and looked out of sorts.
But when his team needed him in the fourth quarter he hit the big baskets, scored 10 points and held his nerve from the free throw line, hitting seven from seven with the game on the line to win this incredible final for Demons.
While he got the MVP award, Mathew McCarthy, Ben Horgan, Colin Hannigan, Jake Orji and Issac Eroutteh also played their part in this famous win.
Demons started poorly despite Colin Hannigan scoring the first basket of the game.
The big problem for UCC Demons in the opening quarter was their defence, or should I say their lack of defensive intensity.
Tolka were scoring too easy every time they came down the court. When Demons were in a man-to-man defence they kept losing all the one-on-one battles, with nobody helping out and then, when back in a zone, they kept falling asleep after the second or third pass and letting players in behind them.
In the frontcourt, their run-and-gun style offence was working and with Matthew McCarthy, Orji and Ben Horgan hitting 16 points between them, they only trailed by four 20-24 when in reality they only got going in the final five minutes of the quarter after the introduction of big man Jake Orji.
Tolka got off to a flyer in the second and led 31-21 after two minutes of action, but Demons never panicked. They started to get the ball inside more to their big men Orji who hit 12 points and Issac Eroutteh with six and as they started to reduce the deficit as the huge Demons crowd started to get behind their team.
At the break Demons trailed by one, 36-37, but the good news from their point of view was they were still in the final, had only played in spurts and would surely cut down their turnovers (11) and bad shot selection in the second half which would put them in a great place to win this final.
Demons took more care of the ball in the third and with Matthew McCarthy scoring some fantastic layups from crazy angles, Demons began to find their range and confidence.
Demons star player Jack O’Leary was also starting to find his range. He hit the last five points of the quarter for the Cork side as the third quarter ended all square at 54 points each.
The fourth quarter was nip and tuck with each side taking the lead on several occasions and with just over four minutes to play, Demons had come from 56-64 behind to lead 65-64 thanks to some excellent scores including a vital Ben Horgan three-pointer.
With two to play they trailed again 67-71 with Faapib doing all the scoring for Tolka. They were six down with one minute and 56 seconds to go.
But Demons had it down to one, 72-73 with one minute and eight seconds remaining thanks to a Jack O’Leary basket.
The same player had Demons ahead 74-73 after he made two free throws with 36 seconds remaining.
Tolka had a chance to win it from the line after a very harsh unsportsmanlike call was made on Jake Orji with nine seconds to go, but they missed both and they also missed a shot when they got possession back from the foul.
O’Leary grabbed the rebound, was fouled and showed his composure to make his two free throws to win the game for Demons and set off scenes of wild celebration in the stadium.