BNI’s Under 14 boys capped off their preparations for this year’s Summer Slam tournament with back to back games against a Kerry select team on Saturday and Sunday.
Saturday’s opening game ended with a solid 36-29 win for the BNI team with Eoin Nagle, team captain, leading a strong starting five comprised of players from no less than four different clubs. Nagle was joined by his Belfast Star teammate John Smye, while Queens (Daniel Leggett), Tyrone Towers (Brian McNulty) and Letterkenny (Michael Leadley) were all represented; highlighting the growing strength of player development throughout BNI.
Nagle controlled the tempo of the game well in the opening quarter and, overall, BNI’s offensive shape was good. McNulty established himself as a potential key player for the team showing strength, desire and explosiveness on the boards and early glimpses of a fine mid-range jump shot. The team’s spacing, and the outside threat of John Smye left enough space for Michael Leadley get several good looks underneath the basket. BNI needed to be more aggressive at times on offence, however, and the game stayed tight throughout.
An increase in defensive intensity in the second quarter saw BNI pull out into the lead as they helped and trapped aggressively. On a number of occasions the intense ball pressure and quick help forced Kerry into bad passes which Robbie McAllister, Ethan Gibson and Mark McKearney all picked off to launch quick counter attacks. All five showed strong defensive instincts and the rebounding of Daragh Morgan and John Moran provided a solid platform for McKearney to launch a more effective fast break than the first quarter. Morgan and McAllister kept the Kerry defence very much on the back foot throughout, attacking the gaps hard, getting to the hoop or drawing fouls.
The second and third quarters saw the arrival of Pearse Braiden, Corin McMonagle and John Toner into the game. Braiden has shown that he can be a valuable asset to the BNI team with his strength, rebounding and touch around the basket, while McMonagle and Toner (both dangerous shooters) and crucial depth at the guard position. Both can be a viable shooting threat from the perimeter.
During the fourth quarter, BNI reinstated Nagle, McNulty and Smye and looked to make greater use of the pick-and-roll as a way of penetrating the key to draw the help defence and find the open shooter. The game remained competitive, however, and Kerry reduced the lead to just five points before Daniel Leggett showed the deftest of touches to seal the game with an excellent baseline floater.Sunday’s second meeting with Kerry brought a solid performance but a three point loss, 28-31. Although the game was tight, it was BNI who got into the early lead and held it for three-quarters of the game. McMonagle and Smye both made scores from long range in the opening quarter and thereafter Smye in particular found himself closely guarded for the rest of the game. Smye is a key offensive player for BNI and will need to use his shooting threat more and more as a decoy to open up drives to the basket when he finds himself under such defensive scrutiny.
The game provided BNI with the opportunity to experiment offensively and to look at different combinations on the floor. The threat of Michael Leadley inside left Daragh Morgan wide open at the top of the key, and this high-low movement is something BNI will likely want to use again in Scotland. Mark McKearney’s second-quarter performance was very impressive as the Dungannon point guard played at high tempo, continually harassed the dribbler and dived for loose balls. BNI then shifted to a two-guard offence, initially with Nagle and McKearney, but used various combinations of players, including McAllister, Gibson, McMonagle and Leggett.
For much of the final quarter, BNI sought to open their designated shooter by running him baseline and providing screens. Smye, Morgan and Toner were all given an opportunity to run the baseline and will likely be given the chance to do so again in Scotland.
The boys will now travel together with the BNI Girls to Edinburgh on Friday morning to compete in the Summer Slam invitational tournament and are scheduled to face Scotland, Luxembourg and CB Zaragoza from Spain. The tournament will tip off with a 2pm game against Luxembourg this Friday, before the boys play Zaragoza at 7.30pm. Scotland are Saturday’s opponents at midday, with a busy evening planned, including a VIP reception and Scotland vs England Senior Men’s game at 8pm. The tournament concludes for BNI at midday on Sunday.
BNI U14 Boys Squad:
Ethan Gibson G Belfast Star
Robbie McAllister G Blackwater Steelers
Mark McKearney G Tyrone Towers
Corin McMonagle G North Star
Eoin Nagle (Capt.) G Belfast Star
John Toner G Queens
Pearse Braiden F Lisburn
Daniel Leggett F Queens
John Moran F Belfast Star
Daragh Morgan F Tyrone Towers
John Smye F Belfast Star
Brian McNulty F/C Tyrone Towers
Michael Leadley C Letterkenny