The Irish U18 Women’s team played the highly rated Scotland U18 team over two closely fought contests in Stirling, Scotland, on the 15th and 16th July. Basketball Scotland’s training base at the Peak Sports Centre was the venue for the opening game, which was played in sweltering temperatures with the height and conditioning advantage of the hosts expected to be the difference.
The Irish girls raced into a 21-8 lead at the end of the first quarter with co-captains Laura Rodgers and Amy Waters leading by example. Ireland’s switching man and match up defences forced the home team into some rushed offensive options and with the energetic Aoife Brett coolly converting at the other end and Maeve Ryan stellar in defence James Weldon was the happier coach at this stage.
As the second quarter began Scotland, as expected , began to find their feet and shooting range but Ireland , thanks to stellar efforts by Shannon Farrell and Clare Leavey , held firm to lead 33-24 at the half time break.
The second half resumption saw the superior fitness of the home side begin to whittle away at the Irish lead and things looked ominous as the third quarter ended with the lead reduced to 47-40 with rising Braveheart star Sarah Thompson notching her points total to 20 while Irish centre Caro Llyod was inspiring her team as she set about amassing a triple double (11 pts, 16 rebounds and 13 blocked shots) and frustrate the Scottish attempts to score in the paint time and time again.
Scotland relentlessly chipped away at the lead and with two minutes remaining in the final quarter edged ahead for the first time by a single point and Ireland paid the price for missing two gilt-edged opportunities before having to foul to stop the game clock.
Final Score Scotland 62 Ireland 57.
After the disappointment in the opening test, Ireland set out on the road to redemption in the University of Stirling Arena on Tuesday 16th July. Once again, the girls in green were first out of the blocks and Scotland found themselves at the wrong end of the 25-18 score line at the end the opening quarter. Lauren Falvey was inspirational and scored at will while her club team-mate Megan O’Leary shrugged off the effects of an injury picked up in the previous game to pull the string at the point guard position.
Scotland refused to buckle and fought back to trail by one point 39-38. Caro Lloyd proved the bane of many of the offensive attempts by the resurgent hosts and she compiled a double-double (12 points and 13 rebounds).
As expected, Scotland’s conditioning began to be more of a factor as the third quarter drew to a close, which ended leaving Ireland trailing 6 points, 45-53.
As the final minutes of the game ebbed away the Irish, despite their best efforts, were struggling to cut the deficit to a single digit figure. Ireland’s full court press with three minutes remaining inspired an 11-0 run mainly due to the athleticism of Laura Rodgers, the unerring accuracy of Lauren Falvey and a trade mark three pointer from Megan O’Leary. Scotland were unable to reciprocate and victory was snatched by the visiting Irish.
Final Score. Scotland 67 Ireland 68.
Head Coach James Weldon’s comments:
“Overall, I am very happy with how this team has developed over a shot period of time and this is in no small measure due to our exceptional team manager Lorraine Scully, whose super organizational ability and relaxed manner has provide a great environment for us all to reach our goals. The Leaving Cert commitments left the players with a long break, which may have had a negative impact on our sharpness.
The team showed tremendous heart and skill to turn around after the setback in the opening game. We were able to achieve a tremendous win here against an well-coached and professionally prepared Scotland team.
It has been an honour to have had the chance to work with this group of Irish players, who never shirked anything they were asked to do. The support from their parents has been immense, which is why the early victories last April in Denmark did not come as a surprise to those close to the team. Hopefully, this is just the beginning for many of these great players.”
Source: Basketball Ireland