ST AIDAN'S second-quarter surge was too much for Ard Scoil na Mara as they collected the U16 B Boys All-Ireland Schools League title at the National Basketball Ireland.
The Dublin Hill school were 46-30 winners against their Tramore opponents, with Justin Raheem leading the way on 31 points.
A huge crowd headed up from the northside to get behind the talented and committed group of hoopers, coached by Irish star Jordan Blount, and after going 15-11 ahead in the first quarter in Tallaght, their 27-15 interval advantage proved enough.
Sean Noonan, Sam Aluko and Victory Odinakachi got some crucial baskets in a highly entertaining contest where the Waterford school came to within six points with just over five minutes remaining. MVP Raheem steadied the ship though and the margin was 16 come the last buzzer.
St Aidan's had no shortage of motivation after the tragic death of former school player and assistant coach Garreth Blount last month. The affable 22-year-old gave everything to the sport but unfortunately lost his battle with cancer at the end of January.
Their path to the final saw them take on tough local opposition from Coláiste an Phiarsaigh, Coláiste an Spioraid Naomh, Coláiste Chríost Rí and Coláiste Mhuire, Cobh, to qualify from Cork.
It required some incredible performances from the squad, particularly team captains and top scorers, Justin Raheem and Seán Noonan, in the All-Ireland quarter-final and semi-final. They saw off St Paul's from Raheeny and Le Chéile, Dublin at the start of the month to secure a berth in the final against Ard Scoil na Mara.
Raheem and Noonan are well known on the Cork basketball scene for their exploits with Neptune, who have the leading teams at U15 and U16, while Sean Kelleher is a nephew of Irish U18 coach Paul Kelleher.
St Aidan's team have a top backroom driving them on.
Head coach and Neptune ace Jordan Blount was assisted by coaches Jodi Furlong and Ger Noonan, who are vastly experienced.
Manager Marian Scanlan also played a key role, along with school management, sponsors and regional organiser Roseanne O'Callaghan.
A huge effort behind the scenes has balanced a hectic training schedule and the planning involved in the many trips away from school.
Justin Raheem (captain), Sean Noonan (captain), Evan Kelleher, Sam Aluko, Ciaran Kavanagh, Victory Odinakachi, Sean Kelleher, Scott Moore, Andrew Dumitrache, Conor Weldon, Leonard Kalvin Warrington, David Buckley, Ignacy Derdowski, Craig O'Connor.