The Courtside Collective was at this year’s Junior finals event, which was held in the Antrim Forum on Sunday 25th March. Throughout the day, there were eleven finals that took place and we cover them all in our Junior finals round-up. The arena was packed with spectators and there was a tremendous buzz about the entire day. All of the players displayed a great competitive spirit and demonstrated a high level of sportsmanship.
TCC would like to congratulate and thank Basketball NI, in particular Annmarie Doherty (junior league convenor), John Scott, Geraldine Smye (child protection officer) & Gavin Garland (development officer), for their roles in organising an outstanding event. We would also like to congratulate each of the finalists for creating a remarkable spectacle for all those who were watching the games. I know that all of us at The Courtside Collective are already looking forward to next year.
Lisburn vs Queen’s – U12 Girls
Those who made it down to the Antrim Forum first girl’s game of the day were in for a treat. Queen’s went up early (10-2) and Lisburn struggled to keep a hold on the resilient Maeve Deery, who finished with a game-high 14 points. Lisburn got it going in the second half, outscoring Queen’s by 8 points in the third quarter.
In the final quarter, Lisburn lead (20-14) with just over a minute remaining. However, two huge scores by N. McGrath and C. McGrath sent the game into OT.
To close out the extra period, Deery had two freethrows to send the game into a second overtime but came up short, hitting one of two.
Final Score: Lisburn 26 – Queen’s 25
MVP: Eimear Morris (Lisburn)
M. Derry – 15 points (Queens)
C. Taylor – 8 points (Lisburn)
Belfast Star vs Queen’s Swish – U12 Boys
The future of Northern Ireland basketball took to the floor in the first game of the day. Queen’s Swish kept the game close with scores from their captain, Joe Toner. However, son of Irish men’s superleague legend, Summersgill, went off for 8-points in the second quarter, putting Belfast Star ahead by 7 going into the second half.
Despite scores from McKinney and Rooney, Queen’s Swish could not compete with the skillful passing from C.J. Fulton. Scoring from Doherty and Fulton added to lead for Belfast Star, who came out victorious.
Final Score: Belfast Star 39 – Queen’s Swish 22
MVP: C.J. Fulton
J. Summersgill – 10 points (Belfast Star)
C.J. Fulton – 6 points (Belfast Star)
Ulster Elks vs Donagh – U14 Girls
Donagh faced another tough contest in this division, facing an undefeated Elks team. The first quarter was an evenly matched contest but scores from O’Connor put Donagh ahead going into the second (8-6). Elks pulled the game back and the score was tied to end the first half (12-12).
Scores from Cooke and A. Maguire, who finished with 13 points, put Elks ahead by three at the end of the third quarter. Tremendous hustle from Donagh’s Mulligan spurred on her team to keep their trophy hopes alive. However, the combination of the two Maguire girls proved the difference in the game and Elks maintained their undefeated record.
Final Score: Ulster Elks 33 – Donagh 24
MVP: Enya Maguire (Ulster Elks)
A. Maguire – 13 points (Ulster Elks)
V. O’Connor – 6 points (Donagh)
Omagh Thunder vs Newry Fliers – U14 (B) Boys
In the U14 Boys B final, Omagh Thunder took on Newry Fliers in what was always going to be a close encounter. The first two quarters were tightly contested, with Newry edging each by a single point. McMillan led the scoring for Newry at the half with McAleer getting it done for Omagh – each had six points. The turning point came in the third quarter, however; McAleer hit a three-pointer and Omagh never looked back, taking a four-point lead into the fourth.
Tyrone Weir, later named MVP, made his mark in the final quarter. Weir consistently caused problems for Newry, drawing fouls on two drives to the rim – Newry had no answer for his physical style of play.
Despite a valiant effort from their top scorer in the game, Cumiskey (10pts), Newry could not contain Weir and Hayes in the fourth, and the game finished 31-27 in Omagh’s favour.
Final Score: Omagh Thunder 31 – Newry Fliers 27
MVP: Tyrone Weir
E. McAleer – 12 points (Omagh Thunder)
C. Cumiskey – 10 points (Newry Fliers)
Belfast Star vs Donagh– U14 (A) Boys
This was always going to be a difficult contest for Monaghan side, Donagh. Belfast Star came out firing with Josh Briers setting the tone early on, ending the first quarter with 6-points. Scores from McKenna kept Donagh in the game, although the first half ended in Star’s favour (24-14).
The second half was all about Belfast Star and Tom Glackin, who finished the game with 10 points, came alive to spur his team onto victory.
Final Score: Belfast Star 49- Donagh 23
MVP: Josh Briers (Belfast Star)
J. Briers – 18 points (Belfast Star)
T. Glackin – 10 points (Belfast Star)
E. McEimeel – 6 points (Donagh)
Tyrone Towers vs Donagh – U16 Girls
Tyrone Towers focused their attention on putting Donagh under pressure in the full-court early on. However, the Monaghan side remained composed and coasted to a large first quarter lead (11-2). E McKenna contributed 7 points in the first quarter alone and finished the game with 9 points.
Although Towers brought it within 8-points to begin the second half, Donagh continued to perform well and maintained their lead throughout the course of the game. Despite a late fourth quarter run spurred by Towers’ C Coary , impressive performances from Ellen O’Brien and E McKenna ensured that Donagh would take the U16 trophy to Monaghan.
Final Score: Donagh 33 – Tyrone Towers 26
MVP: Ellen O’Brien
E. O’Brien – 11 points (Donagh)
E. McKenna – 9 points (Donagh)
E. Lafferty – 8 points (Tyrone)
Newry Flyers vs Rising Stars – U16 (B) Boys
When the Rising Stars are around, so are their fans. This new club to the BNI leagues has become well-known for having the most enthusiastic and committed supporters. That being said, those who made the trip from Newry also brought a serious amount of energy to the U16B boys final.
Early on, the game was all about defence and both teams struggled to get anything easy on the offensive end. At the end of the first, Rising Stars held a 1-point lead. Despite some impressive scoring from Miller, the Flyers could not edge away from the Stars and the first half ended with a tie-game (18-18).
In the second half, the Flyers started to catch fire, with contributions from O’Reilly. However, Sevilla, who finished the game with a team-high 13 points, knocked down some deep three-pointers to keep the Stars shining [Editor: nice].
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Flyers made their final run. Stars fought hard to keep it close but were unable to cut the deficit.
Final score: Newry Flyers 44 – Rising Stars 34
MVP: Aaron Miller
A. Miller – 20 points (Newry)
O’Reilly – 17 points (Newry)
Sevilla – 13 points (Rising Stars)
Stewart – 9 points (Rising Stars)
Letterkenny Blaze vs Belfast Star – U16 (A) Boys
Belfast Star and Letterkenny Blaze fought it out in a thrilling U16 Boys final, which was end-to-end until the final seconds. Star surged to a 13-2 lead early in the first quarter with inspired playmaking from Quinn, who orchestrated the offense and added a three-pointer of his own. The early contribution of D Mullan is also worthy of a mention – his hustle and energy resulted in six points.
Consistent scoring from Lynch (6 points) in the second quarter gave the Blaze renewed confidence going into the half. This confidence would prove to be the difference in the third, with MVP C Hickey coordinating a devastating eight minutes of inspired offense to bring Blaze to within one.
This game truly came alive in the fourth quarter, with the two teams trading scores as the game came down to the wire. Hickey cemented his MVP credentials, adding timely defensive play to his scoring effort. A Ryan’s six points in the closing moments were not enough to prevent Blaze clinching the contest.
Final Score: Belfast Star 41 – Letterkenny Blaze 43
MVP: C Hickey
C. Hickey – 14 points (Letterkenny Blaze)
A. Ryan – 10 points (Belfast Star)
Omagh Thunder vs A-Town Tigers – U18 (B) Boys
‘A game of two halves’ is the only way to describe this one. Omagh Thunder and Andersonstown Tigers appeared equally matched in the first quarter, and by the end of the second Andersonstown had managed to edge ahead thanks to the stellar play of captain, J Brownlee. However, everything would change in the third.
A scoring charge led by MVP Marc Cardenas resulted in a 26-2 blowout quarter from which the Thunder could not recover. Brownlee did his best to salvage what he could from the game in the fourth, but a pair of three-pointers from Omagh’s Jankus put the game well beyond the Tigers’ reach.
Final Score: Omagh Thunder 57 – Andersonstown Tigers 33
MVP: Marc Cardenas
M. Cardenas – 17 points (Omagh Thunder)
J. Brownlee – 16 points (Andersonstown Tigers)
Belfast Star vs Letterkenny Blaze – U18 (A) Boys
In the U18 Boys final, Belfast Star started as they meant to go on; a pair of three-pointers from the Quinn twins began a well-rounded scoring quarter that put the team up by 11 going into the second. Letterkenny managed to cut the deficit by five in the second quarter with buckets from six different sources, but this is as close as they would get.
In the third quarter MVP Aidan Quinn had 11 points and his brother Connor added 7, as Star continued to score at will. They found themselves ahead by 22 going into the final quarter and a pair of three-pointers from Sean Rooney early in the fourth vanquished any hope the Blaze had of mounting a comeback.
Final Score: Belfast Star 82 – Letterkenny Blaze 45
MVP: Aidan Quinn
A. Quinn – 21 points
C. Hickey – 9 points
Tyrone Towers vs Lisburn – U19 Girls
The final game of the day-long event was the much-anticipated match-up of Towers and Lisburn. These two teams had exchanged wins during their regular season contests, however this was the game that mattered most.
Towers set the tone in the first quarter (11-7), with scores from Mallon and a long 3-pointer by Foley. However, an inspired performance by Lisburn in the second quarter changed the game. Lead by Moyes & Cooper, who both contributed 5-points a piece in the second quarter run, Lisburn went up 9-points to end the first half (22-13).
The athletic Voltechovic came alive in the third quarter but Lisburn continued to have their way. Despite a last quarter run by Towers, the Lisburn side remained composed and were able to close out the game as champions.
Final score: Tyrone Towers 30 – Lisburn 38
MVP: Niamhin Cooper
O. Foley – 7 points (Towers)
S. Moyes – 13 points (Lisburn)
N. Cooper – 12 points (Lisburn)
Articles: Cathal Loughran | Tony McGaharan
Photography: John Wynne