CORK basketballers Dylan O'Rourke, Justin Raheem and Deniss Brusevics helped Ireland U16s capture the Four Nations title after a pulsating 89-84 win over defending champions England in overtime at the National Basketball Arena.
The Neptune trio were involved in the two-day tournament which saw Michael Lynch's squad overwhelm Wales and Scotland before edging out England in a thriller in Tallaght.
Ireland rallied from five points down with four minutes remaining to take it to overtime. Éanna Basketball Club’s Adam Charles showed immense composure to capture a rebound, hit a spin move and make the crucial basket with just 18 seconds on the clock. Charles Marcoullier came up big in that overtime period. He subbed in for Dylan O’Rourke with Ireland trailing by a point, before scoring the next six points to give Ireland an 86-81 lead the wouldn’t relinquish.
To that point, the contest had been one filled with drama, skill and played at a frenetic pace in front of a lively crowd. The away side had the better of the opening exchanges and led 22-16 after the first. Ireland grew into the game in the second quarter and narrowed the gap to three points by the close of play. Marcoullier, Noah Winders, Darragh Horkan, O’Rourke, Charles, Eoin Potito and Rojus Rimas all contributing points in a magnificent team display of shooting. Rimas’ sending the home fans happily into the interval with a closing three that made it 41-39 in favour of England at half-time.
Some incredible defence from both teams in the final two quarters had all fans in the National Basketball Arena on their feet. A big Noah Winders block at the midway point of the third on an onrushing Kervy Mabaya-Muteba being the highlight. This spark soon saw Ireland in front following a Kieran Quinn languid shot from beyond the arc, which made it 50-46, but an 11-4 England run to close the period ensured Lynch’s team would need to dig deep in the dying embers.
With several players in foul trouble at the start of the fourth, the head coach turned to Kareem Matonmi. The Baltinglass Bulldog repaid his coaches’ faith with numerous big rebounds on both ends of the court, also contributing a vital score to bring Ireland back to 73-71 down with 1:20 left on the clock, ending a run of back-to-back buckets for England.
Quinn thought he’d won it for Ireland with a huge corner three until Jack Walton went coast to coast, getting the and one; to send the travelling English fans into raptures. That jubilation was short-lived though, as Charles gathered a rebound that will live long in the memory of the players, coaches and fans in the National Basketball Arena.
Ireland reached the deciding game having put in a very convincing 99-39 performance against Scotland earlier in the day. O’Rourke, Charles and Cillian Cannon topped the box score on that occasion with 16, 14 and 10 points respectively in a game that all players found themselves on the scoresheet.
Ireland U16 girls capped a superb two days of basketball by finishing second in the Four Nations, coming up just short 73-61, despite a fine display against a powerful England side.
Kira Lynch, Una O’Brien and Sophie Staunton showed their scoring prowess to all reach double digits, while Kaitlyn Summers ran the point very effectively in tandem with some strong defensive play by Ciara Brogan and Fay McDonell throughout.
After convincing wins against Wales and Scotland on day one, it all came down to a winner-take-all tie with unbeaten England for Laura Mullally’s team and proceedings started perfectly when Kira Lynch took the ball to the house from the tip-off. Ireland held their own thereafter, Sophie Staunton and Ciara Brogan making their presence felt along with Lynch, though a Verbeeten three as the clock expired meant the home side trailed 22-19 heading to the second.
It was the second quarter that proved to be the difference between the teams. England’s stingy defence limited Ireland to 8 points, as they accumulated 20 of their own. Kaitlyn Summers free-throws ensured the gap was 15 points, 42-27 at the interval.
Lynch, Andrea Chislyn Jude and Una O’Brien all made three-point shots in the third, as Ireland attempted to engineer a comeback, but England were always able to keep them at arm’s length. A long-range three by Costa helped them to a 58-40 lead heading into the fourth. To their credit Ireland played their best basketball in the final quarter, scoring 21 points while restricting their opponents to 15 but it wasn’t enough and England ran out deserving winners at the buzzer.