The NBA Finals 2016: Who needs it more?

Tonight the Cleveland Cavaliers will travel to Oakland to take on the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals. This is why these guys play, nothing is more important right now. But these finals more than any other in recent memory, have substantially more meaning. Win or lose these 2016 NBA Finals mean everything and more to both teams involved.

Are we giving Kevin Durant a pass?

Game 6 between the Spurs and the Thunder went to overtime, but the former ultimately prevailed with a 112-107 win, clinching the Western Conference title and forcing a rematch of the 2013 NBA finals – although this time the Spurs will hold home court advantage.  The finals changes from a 2-3-2 format to a 2-2-1-1-1 format this year to mirror the earlier rounds of the playoffs and to tire out the media crews who will be on the charter flights back and forward from south Florida to central Texas should this series go past 4.

The Courtside Collective will be in attendance at most of the games in San Antonio (all, if my wife will let me), although my own prediction has San Antonio taking the series in game 6 in Miami – in a sense righting the wrong of last year when they really should have sealed the series until Ray Allen’s wonder shot (seriously, one of the all time greatest shots in any sport, I can’t emphasize that enough) brought the Heat back from the dead and put away the security cordon for another few hours.

These NBA finals will be noteworthy for being the first finals since 2011 not to feature the MVP.  That season, Derrick Rose became the youngest ever MVP at the age of 22 as he led the Bulls to the NBA’s best record (62-20) but were beaten 4-1 in the Eastern Conference finals by the Miami Heat.  This season, Kevin Durant was on the losing side in his conference finals.  On both occasions, the MVP award was taken from two-time defending MVP LeBron James, in what you could argue is (and was) simply a case of voters getting tired of LeBron’s sustained excellence.

After Oklahoma lost in overtime to Memphis in game 5 of the first round (100-99), putting them on the brink of elimination, Durant was branded “Mr Unreliable” by the Oklahoman.

Durant responded with 36 points and 10 rebounds in a 20-point game 6 victory, before the Thunder won game 7 by 11, behind 33 points from Durant.

Durant is as popular a superstar as there is in the NBA.  His MVP speech, linked here, was perhaps the least egotistical speech in NBA history.

But there comes a point when questions have to be asked about Durant and his ability to lead a team to a title.  He becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2016.  Russell Westbrook becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2017.  Durant earns $17.8m this season, $19m next season and $20.1m the season after before he hits free agency.  Westbrook is getting $14.7m this season, $15.7m next, then $16.7m and $17.8m for the remainder of his contract.  Just for comparison, LeBron earns $19m this season, and his opt-in contract is for $20.6m next season and $22.1m the season after (although it’s almost certain he’ll opt out and sign for less money to facilitate another title push next season – at Miami or elsewhere).

LeBron James was, and continues to be, criticised for not winning a title in Cleveland.  Who was his Russell Westbrook?  Mo Williams?  Larry Hughes?  Who was his Serge Ibaka?  Drew Gooden?

(Interesting side note: the season the Cavs made it to the NBA finals – 2007-2008 – their salary list looked like this: Larry Hughes $13.3m; Zydrunas Ilgauskas $9.4m; Drew Gooden $6.6m; Eric Snow $6m; LeBron James $5.8m).

LeBron was 24 the season he led the Cavs to the NBA finals.  Durant is 25.  True, LeBron had played more seasons at that age, by virtue of being older and having been able to skip the solitary year in college that NBA rules forced Durant into, and it’s also true that Durant led the Thunder to the finals much quicker than LeBron was able to lead the Cavs there.

Can’t watch?

One interesting thing about Durant’s MVP speech is just how deferential he was.  He thanked so many people – emphasizing what a nice dude he really is – but the way that he thanked some of them, Westbrook in particular, betrayed the fact that he is simply not assertive enough.  He is better than Westbrook.  There is nobody on the face of this earth (aside from an ESPN talking head, perhaps) who would argue otherwise.  He is capable of making shots that nobody else on the planet – LeBron included – could make, but there is something about the mix in Oklahoma, alluded to by Bill Simmons in this article on Grantland, that just does not scream “title”.  What is clear is that Durant deeply loves his team-mates.  Perhaps that will ultimately be what costs him.


TCC will be reporting live from the 2014 NBA finals, follow us on Facebook and twitter: @courtsideco and @sandersandrew

The schedule, from is copied below (you don’t need to worry about the network, obviously):

Game 1 – Thu, June 5, Miami at San Antonio, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 2 – Sun, June 8, Miami at San Antonio, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 3 – Tue, June 10, San Antonio at Miami, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 4 – Thu, June 12, San Antonio at Miami, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 5 * Sun, June 15, Miami at San Antonio, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 6 * Tue, June 17, San Antonio at Miami, 9 p.m. ET, ABC
Game 7 * Fri, June 20, Miami at San Antonio, 9 p.m. ET, ABC

NBA Conference Finals Preview

The matchups are set.  Indiana against Miami and San Antonio against Memphis.

The Indiana Pacers overcame the New York Knicks on Saturday night, led by, among others, Lance Stephenson.  Stephenson has been something of a breakout star for the Pacers this season, after having drifted since becoming a high school phenom in New York during the second half of the last decade.  Serious concerns over Stephenson’s character and disciplined arose from an altercation with a high school team-mate and other professional concerns.  For example, Stephenson took a tour of Under Armour’s facility before signing a letter of intent.  This may have constituted a recruiting violation as the UA CEO is a Maryland grad.  Stephenson ended up at Cincinnati where he finished his sole season with relatively underwhelming stats of 12.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 2.5 apg.

These questions persisted into last season when Stephenson did this:



In case you were wondering what LeBron James’s locker will look like ahead of the Indiana series…

The Pacers do offer a serious threat to Miami.  In Roy Hibbert, they have a big man who nobody on the Heat can guard.  David West will cause problems for whoever matches up on him as well.  Then you have the talented guards of the Pacers in Paul George, Stephenson and George Hill.  The Pacers do, however, lack depth.  Tyler Hansbrough has become more or less the pro we expected.  Decent, but unspectacular.  DJ Augustin is also solid.  Beyond them, you are starting to get into the world of Ian Mahinmi and Ben Hansbrough.  While the Pacers should destroy Miami inside (don’t forget, Roy Hibbert’s massive contract is largely a product of his performances against Miami a year ago), Miami should do the same to Indiana on the outside.  Paul George can’t guard everyone.

The Pacers best chance is if Miami again suffers from a week’s rest (but how likely is that to happen twice?) and if Dwyane Wade’s knee hasn’t healed in the week off.  That said, he seemed to do alright in the fifth game against Chicago with only a few minutes rest.

Prediction:  Miami in 6.

Out west, it is the old guard of the San Antonio Spurs against the young (ish) upstarts of the Memphis Grizzlies.  This series offers some enticing battles, notably between Marc Gasol and Tim Duncan.  The old and new faces of NBA bigs.  Tony Allen is a defensive stopper and will probably work on whichever Spurs guard heats up.  Tayshaun Prince can do likewise if another gets hot.  Austin Daye can do the same, if you mistake him for Tayshaun Prince.  Memphis has absorbed the blow of Rudy Gay’s departure and actually come out better off.  Mike Conley against Tony Parker should be an interesting clash of two of the NBA’s quickest point guards.

Duncan and Gasol to go at it again.

For the Spurs, the key, as ever, will be their three old heads: Parker, Duncan and Manu Ginobili.  These three have been there and done that.  The Spurs have created a nice squad around their veterans, notable performances coming throughout the season from Kawhi Leonard and Tiago “giant Paul Dick” Splitter.

I expect Memphis’s youth to lead them through this series.  The Spurs started the western conference finals last year in electric fashion, going 2-0 up on Oklahoma City, only to reel off four straight defeats.  Look for huge contributions from one of Gasol or Zach Randolph to lead the Grizzlies to their first ever finals.

Prediction: Memphis in 7

In photos: junior finals day

The BNI junior finals were held in the Antrim Forum a few weeks back and TCC’s Cathal Loughran reported on every game the next day. We now have a selection of new photos, which we thought we would add for all our junior ballers. The staff at The Courtside Collective wish everyone a happy Easter and the best of luck to QUB, UU and BMC teams who are travelling to the All-Ireland inter varsity tournament this weekend in University of Limerick.

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Senior Finals Day 2012

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Ulster Elks v Kilkeel Knights – Men’s Premier League Semi-Final

From the outset of this game, it became apparent that the victor would be decided through rebounding tenacity and aggression, as the Elks’ Connolly and Kilkeel’s Banys clashed within the key for supremacy. The elegant and economical style of play that has become the Elks’ trademark was obvious to all present – however, despite many great looks being available, the Elks often failed to complete ostensibly easy scores, leading to rising frustrations early in the game. Kilkeel initially appeared unsettled, with high defensive pressure in the post from Paddy McGaharan forcing the sizeable Banys to the perimeter. This physical intensity subtly shifted to Kilkeel’s advantage as they turned to the pick and roll, as a tendency to overcommit on defense allowed easy hand-off passes for lay-ins from Kiselius and Danys, as well as creating a vacuum, sucking in perimeter defense allowing for three pointers from Banys and Galdikas.  Elks’ Shazier sank two long range shots midway through the quarter, almost rejuvenating his team and leading to a medley of scores inside from Gallagher, Crothers and Connolly – and so the first quarter ended, hotly contested, 17-16 to Elks.

[singlepic id=23 w=320 h=240 float=left]The Elks’ motion offense became invaluable in the second quarter, giving rise to an overload allowing increased penetration, with a 3-point play off the lay-up and hard foul coming from O’Dornan. Intense interior defense still caused the Knights to take forced shots from the top of the key and the perimeter – however, despite contestation, these were often made. We witnessed a barrage of three pointers amidst this quarter, with scores from the Knights’ Galdikas and the Elks’ Shazier and Crothers occurring in quick succession. Tempers began to rise here, with a heated exchange requiring intervention from the officials between Connolly and Banys taking place as the physical nature of the game increased. The score differential changed constantly in this quarter, with Jordanstown sacrificing a 6 point lead due to poor shot selection and lack of rebounding, which was later clawed back through a timely press, under which Kilkeel crumbled in the backcourt – allowing two steals for the lay in from Hickey. A late three-point score from Kairys reminded us of the predatory danger of Kilkeel from long range and tightened the gap at the half to 39-35.

The nature of the game appeared stunningly different in the third, with Kilkeel simply denying scores within the paint – and exhaustion appeared to be a large factor here, with the Elks’ shooting percentage dropping dramatically as they scored only 4 points in this quarter.  The shooting prowess of the Knights was displayed openly here, as Banys and Danys combined and connected for 14 points and it appeared hope was lost in the Elks’ camp as the situation worsened, leaving Kilkeel leading, 43-52.

[singlepic id=85 w=320 h=240 float=right]The final period was again a reversal, with Ulster Elks now scoring 23 to the Knight’s 10. The effectiveness of Kilkeel’s Banys cannot be disputed here, as he finished repeatedly from range under pressure whenever Kilkeel’s offensive manoeuvres broke down. The Elks initially appeared to struggle under Kilkeel’s zone press, with avoidable turnovers leading to frustrating scores, yet ultimately the Elks continued to battle their way across the floor, with the repeated scoring of Shazier vital here. Veteran Gary Connolly personally displayed the power of determination, with two successive scores at a crucial juncture from a put-back and a transition lay-up, tying the game after a previously insurmountable-seeming lead by Kilkeel. Repeated fouling here led to successful trips to the charity stripe for Shazier and Connolly, with the slashing skill of O’Dornan leading to 6 points from hand-offs in these final minutes, which were partly answered back with a flourish by Kilkeel, with flashy turnaround jumpers from the elbow. An Elks intentional foul led to free throws for Kiselius, who connected on the first, with a clutch 3-point basket then gained from the offensive rebound, narrowing Jordanstown’s lead to 2. Daryl Shazier again drove the key, finding the corner pass to Crothers, who connected for the long 2, sealing the victory for the Ulster Elks with 8 seconds remaining, 66-62.

Top Scorers:

D. Shazier, 26 points

T. Banys, 14 point


Belfast Star v Dungannon Cavaliers – Men’s Premier League Semi-Final

[singlepic id=27 w=320 h=240 float=left]This game was truly a clash between the pinnacles of athleticism and physicality respectively, with Star stealing several early fast break opportunities, yet immediately displaying an inability to contain dominant centre Bastakys. The colossal specimen planted himself in the key in a timely fashion, and with no answer to his bulk emerging from the opposing side, scored in a truly unstoppable and juggernaut-esque fashion, when not simply inhaling offensive rebounds. Star’s passing acumen was on display here, as they garnered a quick 6 point lead from penetration and subtle dishes beneath the basket – however, the Cavaliers soon became wise to this tactic, blocking the key and forcing low percentage and off-balance runners, This, combined with a somewhat strained and spread Star defense led to a narrowing of their early lead and tt appeared that transition ‘quick-hit’ strikes would be vital for Star’s success – in essence, a score was needed before Bastakys could reach the defensive end. However, the heavy involvement of Macekas, gathering steals and rebounds, ensured difficulty with this tactic and left both teams in deadlock entering the second, 16-16.

[singlepic id=31 w=320 h=240 float=right]The instigation of a Star press in the second proved problematic for the Cavaliers, with their lack of discipline and somewhat maverick tendencies resulting in several turnovers for easy scores from McCotter and Mullan.  However, when the Cavaliers managed to cross the halfway line, the result was predictable and almost inevitable – a forceful and powerhouse manoeuvre inside the key leading to the lay-in. The legendary presence of the Cavaliers on the three point line was successfully diminished here repeatedly by the high-pressure Star defense, and the offensive spread operated by the Belfast side effectively dragged Bastakys from the key on numerous occasions, allowing the quick penetration for the basket. Combining this with two transition lay-ups from McCotter in the final minute of the period, the Cavaliers’ lead was cut to a mere three at the half (31-34), and as fatigue for both sides began became apparent, the outcome of this game was anyone’s guess.

Dungannon obviously reasserted themselves in this quarter, dominating the key with an array of scores, including the pretty spin and finish from Saulytis, soon allowing a 7-point lead to arise. The analytical nature of Star basketball kept the team in the game, as backdoor cuts were exploited through deceptive passing for the lay-in by Mullan. Notable here was the hard drive and finish with the foul by Star’s Ashe and McKillop, allowing them a tentative and quickly forsaken 1-point lead in this quarter. Outstanding here was Star’s Johnston, who remained focused and collected, finishing two three-pointers and two free throws from the painful foul.  Nevertheless, foul trouble began to rear its ugly head as Bastakys was awarded repeated trips to the line alongside several scores in the paint, yet Star remained well in contention, 53-49.

[singlepic id=35 w=320 h=240 float=left]Internal problems within the Cavaliers led to the re-ignition of hope for Star as they narrowed the lead by a further point to 53-50, but found it difficult to come closer– a three-point play by Kersis off the putback led to building of the Cavaliers’ momentum and what can only be described as a ‘steamroller effect’, as they ran roughshod over Belfast Star and re-established a 7 point lead. But with two minutes left, a further three-pointer from Johnston cut the lead to 3, with a free throw reducing this to 2. The crowd watched with bated breath as Star made yet another defensive stop and made their way up the floor – but a silly turnover ended a chance to take the lead, as Sadauskas drained the three, followed by the quick two from Macikas. A free throw and 3-pointer from McKillop left Star down 3 with 31 seconds remaining and intentional fouls by Burns and Ashe to stop the clock and force the free throws led to little success as Cavaliers were victorious, 72-65.

Tyrone Towers v Lisburn 94 – Ladies’ Final

[singlepic id=70 w=320 h=240 float=left]The result of this game immediately appeared unforeseeable – with Lisburn having acquired three victories over Towers in the regular season, yet Dungannon were still abuzz from recent victories; and with a large supporting crowd, many wondered what would happen if they established their momentum. The game opened with a three-pointer for Towers from the talented Rafferty and excellent ball movement found Fay under the basket for the score. A further three from Rafferty led to an 8-2 Towers lead, ominous for the game to come. Lisburn’s Smye connected for the tough two in the paint, and the team’s effective ball movement here ensured that shooting success would soon come. Tower’s rebounding strength seemed to be the major issue here however, with Rafferty and Gallagher working collectively under the basket on the offensive end, while eventual MVP McCrory displayed her calibre here with two contested shots off the pivot from the elbow. Lisburn upped their intensity here and through the aggression of F. Dick and Fairbairn, secured several rebounds for the second-chance score – yet the lack of penetration made it difficult to narrow the differential and so the quarter ended, 8-16 Towers.

[singlepic id=65 w=320 h=240 float=right]Lisburn’s offense improved immensely in this second period, as they refused to allow Towers to set and found the open shot through quick rotation – with S. Dick and Smye proving their mettle here and connecting on several shots from the wing. Walsh also displayed her abilities, with a deft crossover and stepback jumper from the corner. However, while Towers’ scoring was reduced in this quarter, the side could not be sufficiently contained – with Colgan displaying both scoring ability and vision, running the fast break alternately for the score and the precision pass for the lay-in. Towers came to the half with a comfortable lead 18-24.

Both sides appeared well-matched in the third, yet Lisburn here secured a lead for the first time in the game, with foolish Towers turnovers and the high percentage shooting of Fairbairn from the wing resulting in the swing. The effective baseline play of Towers however countered this, and McCrory was again stellar from the elbow and so Towers regained their lead, 30-34.

[singlepic id=73 w=320 h=240 float=left]In the final period, both teams went score for score in the opening minutes, with Lisburn refusing to submit – a 3 from Smye saw the lead fall to a single point. Fast break lay ups at either end resulted in a score of 37-38 with 3 minutes remaining, when two successive steals and lay-ups by Rafferty proved immensely decisive, and Lisburn decided to play the foul game. A further lay-in by Rafferty increased the gap to 6, yet this was answered back by Walsh with a lay-up and free throw.  With twenty seconds remaining, and a score of 40-43, Colgan was sent twice to the free throw line, making two of four and Dungannon emerge champions, 40-45.

Top Scorers:

S. Dick 12 points

N. Rafferty, E McCrory 12 points

MVP: E McCrory

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Tyrone Towers v Down Tropics – Promotion/Relegation Playoff

[singlepic id=54 w=320 h=240 float=right]Of all the games, this was perhaps the most desperate contest – Tyrone Towers sought to accede to the Premier League, while the Belfast Tropics fought to avoid relegation. The game almost appeared to be a display of athletic manoeuvres and skills, with Towers’ Kelly opening the game with a circus shot, followed by the 3 amidst pressure from Girvan. Tyrone appeared to run away with the game almost immediately, having reached a score of 15-5 merely 4 minutes into the quarter. The Tropics press did not faze the Tyrone men – quick movement of the ball spread the press unevenly to one side, allowing uncontested lay ups. The star of the show for Tropics was naturally Celms, displaying a dazzling array of jumpshot options and scoring the entirety of his team’s points in this period. Also noteworthy was Towers’ veteran Gallagher, whose speed appears undiminished as he repeatedly raced down the court for the easy lay-up. This quarter, unreflective of the game as a whole, ended with Towers leading 16-27.

[singlepic id=49 w=320 h=240 float=right]Celms and Whann functioning as partners in this game, working in tandem for the pick and pop for dead-eye shooter Celms, with Whann using his height and athleticism to effectively clean up any mess. The Towers run-and-gun style of play was difficult for the Down team to work with, with Gallagher outrunning entire generations, yet the Tropics eventually found the correct balance of defensive pressure and forced 24 second violations, thus slowly eating away at the Tyrone lead. Celms, of course, contributed points that are, strictly speaking, ridiculous. The game continued in this manner throughout the second and third periods, gradually becoming closer, and so we reach the end of the third quarter with the tight score of 59-61.

[singlepic id=41 w=320 h=240 float=left]In the final period, Towers displayed their true passing range for several impressive fast breaks, but Celms managed to swing a 2 point lead for his side. A forced turnover les to a Tyrone three followed by a free throw, yet an open lay-up from McKenna squared the game with 1:30 remaining. After a Tyrone lay-up, Celms missed the free throw to tie the game, 81-82, and another Tyrone score followed with twenty seconds remaining. Celms made two free throws and Whann completed the lay-in, to give Tropics a one-point lead, but Tyrone’s Gallagher stepped up and nailed two free throws to clinch the game, as time then expired and Towers emerged as the League’s newest Premier League side.

Top Scorers:

G. Celms 53 pts  (seriously)

J. Kelly 25 pts


Ulster Elks v Dungannon Cavaliers – Men’s Premier League Final

This is it. The one we’ve been waiting for. Game on.

[singlepic id=80 w=320 h=240 float=left]In the opening minutes, the Cavaliers performed well, almost rendering the defense irrelevant and finding several scooping scores in the key. The Elks’ Connolly found a simple solution to this – prevent dominant Bastakys from entering the key in the first place, bumping the centre any time he made a move towards the basket. Jordanstown executed an exemplary level of ball movement, playing an aesthetic style of basketball revolving around penetration and powerful dishes to open up channels. At this point, it seemed that an Ulster victory would not come easy, due to the Cavaliers’ forceful presence around the rim and thus the need for Jordanstown to result to heavy fouls to prevent easy scores. Daryl Shazier again occupied a critical role in the Jordanstown programme, finding Crother in the corner for two three-pointers and adding five points of his own here, with Hickey also adding four. Cavaliers were typically centred around Bastakys and the long range shooting of Macekas and Siaulytis, yet were limited in their scoring here, with Jordanstown leading 24-13.

[singlepic id=39 w=320 h=240 float=right]It felt very much in the second that the Cavaliers were playing in Jordanstown’s game – every offense was executed precisely and defensively speaking, the Cavaliers were somewhat chastened due to aggression beneath the basket. Indeed, it appeared unusually that the Cavaliers struggled to find a score except in transition as fatigue began to set in for both sides and unforced errors and turnovers began to arise. Shazier began a streak of lights-out shooting, completing 4 three-pointers in this period as well as several lay-ups, and already the MVP chants began. Bastakys began to re-assert himself, adding 8 points in this quarter, but one wondered if it was too little, too late, as UUJ romped to the half, 46-34.

The battle for victory raged on in the key, and Jordanstown cleverly took to the perimeter for several long twos from Hickey, Crothers and Shazier. Squandered fouls began to be a problem as for once, the Cavaliers were not the more physical team, and Macekas took to the line repeatedly. However, Dungannon appeared to be crumbling from within and it seemed the game was sealed, 66-48.

[singlepic id=88 w=320 h=240 float=left]The expertise of Shazier was again flaunted in the final quarter as he utilised his speed and first-step to secure a drive to the basket for the pretty dish. Bastakys was effectively shut down by help defense and with a score of 82-54 with 3 minutes remaining, the result was all too apparent. Shazier contributed a further two 3 pointers and a lay-up, finalising his MVP credentials, and as Jordanstown magnanimously let the ball roll away as time expired, they became champions, 91-60.

While it showcased an impressive display of basketball, the final wasn’t the game I expected – not to take away from the victory by the Ulster Elks in any way, as they still performed superbly, but in my humble opinion, the large defeat was heavily due to the fact that the Dungannon Cavaliers simply succumbed to their exhaustion from enduring three tough games within 24 hours. Nonetheless, congratulations to the new Premier League champions!

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Top Scorers:

D. Shazier 34 pts

S. Bastakys, E. Siaulytis 14pts

MVP: Darryl Shazier




In photos: Senior Finals Day 2012

The Courtside Collective was at the BNI senior finals day event, held in La Salle sports complex, on Saturday 31st March. It was a great day and well organised by the men’s league convenor, and BNI secretary, Mark O’Neill. Niall O’Neill, the newest member of our team, was glued to each game and will be providing our followers with a full recap of the five games that took place, including the men’s premier league and women’s championship games. In the meantime, enjoy this selection of photos from the day courtesy of  our photographer, Fiona Sullivan.

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All-Ireland schools’ finals recap

Abbey Grammar came home with the U16C trophy

Last week, there were four teams from Northern Ireland represented in the All-Ireland schools league finals; St Columb’s U19B boys (L-Derry), Abbey Grammar U19C boys (Newry), St Malachy’s College U16A boys (Belfast), Abbey Grammar U16C boys (Newry), and Aquinas Grammar U16C girls (Belfast). Below is a full list of reports and photographs from the games, which took place in the National Basketball Arena, Dublin.

St. Paul’s Raheny lifted the Under 19 B Boys’ All Ireland Schools League final trophy after defeating St. Columbs, Derry on a final scoreline of 56 – 44. 

St. Paul’s’ Paddy Sullivan was named the ‘MVP’ after contributing a tally of 21 points, while Jordan McClelland also put in a 21 point scoring performance for St. Columbs, Derry.

It was St. Columbs who started brightly with an opening basket from Nathan Brown which was quickly followed by team mate McClelland who netted 11 points solely in the first quarter. St. Paul’s quickly regrouped with power plays from Greg Campion and Paddy Sullivan as the Raheny team took a four point lead at the end of the first quarter.

St Columb's College u19 Boys squad who lost out in the u19b final to St Paul's

Adam Wilson helped St. Columbs respond in the early stages of the second quarter but St. Paul’s’ Alex Talpau returned with another two points, who eventually ended up with 15 points. The momentum was with Pauls, who increased their lead to six points with Campion and Talpau to the fore. (26-32)

St Columbs desperately tried to claw back the deficit but Pauls continued to dominate and once they opened up a double digit lead there was no way back.

St.Columbs (Derry) 44 (26) (J McClelland 21, M Brennan 14, N Brown 2) St.Paul’s Raheny (Dublin) 56 (32) (P Sullivan 21, A Talpau 15, G Campion 12)

MVP; Paddy Sullivan (St. Paul’s Raheny)


St. Malachy’s lifted the Under 16 A Boys’ All Ireland Schools League final trophy after a nail biting victory over Douglas Community School with the final score at 55 – 54.

St. Malachy’s Odhran Eastwood was awarded the ‘MVP’ of the game after he produced an all-star performance and finished with an impressive 13 points.

St Malachy's celebrating their success

However, it was Douglas Community School to put points on the scoreboard first in this exhilarating All Ireland Final as Liam Harris hit the opening shot for his side. With the tempo of the game intense from the jump, both teams were score for score in the first few minutes of play. Both sides looked to attack the basket and hit some easy scores to gain the lead but it was St Malachy’s that secured the advantage and the first quarter finished up 22-16 in their favour.

The level of basketball continued to improve throughout the game as the players executed their coaches orders. However, it was the impressive two man show from Douglas Community School’s Jack O’ Mahony and Gary Pineada that stood out. They kept their side in the game as they continuously worked by attacking the gaps in the key and converting their efforts to scores on the free throw line.

Handling the pressure

St. Malachy’s looked as thought they might pull away as Harris scored a coast to coast lay-up and Peter O’Donnell relentlessly continued to crash the boards but Douglas’ O’Mahony came straight off the bench to hit a bank shot to keep them in the game and silence any doubt in his teammates minds.

With the crowd on the edge of their seats, both teams played with their foot on the gas as this game came down to the very last second. Douglas’ O’Mahony narrowly missed a long three point shot with two defenders on him to win the game and St. Malachy’s were crowded victorious.

The score finished 55-54.

St. Malachy’s (Belfast) 55 (35) (P Sloan 15, A Ryan & O Eastwood 13, J Largey 12) Douglas Community School 54 (32) (Cork) (J O’Mahony 17, G Pineada 16, L Harris)

MVP; Odhran Eastwood (St. Malachy’s)

All-Ireland champions - St Malachy's

Abbey Grammar School lifted the Under 16 C Boys’ All Ireland Schools League final trophy after an impressive win over CBS High School with a final score of 55 – 37.

Aaron Miller of Abbey Grammar School was awarded the ‘MVP’ award after an all-round powerful performance and contributing a tally of 16 points for his side.

U16C Champions - Abbey Grammar

It was Abbey Grammar School to open up the game and set the high tempo for this exciting All Ireland League final. Their intensity continued throughout the first quarter with coast to coast scores from Aaron Miller and impressive two man play between Miller and teammate Ross O’Hanlon. With High School’s outside shots struggling to find the bottom of the net, their captain Aaron Fennell continued to attack the basket and the quarter ended 23 – 7 to Abbey Grammar School.

The second quarter saw High School’s Fennell run in two consecutive lay-ups with teammate Brian Healy stepping in to score some vital points to try and pull their team back from the big deficit they created in the first quarter. However, Abbey Grammar School’s Aaron O’Reilly, who finished with 21 points to his name, responded with an all-star performance pushing the ball up the floor to put his team ahead, 33 – 17.

High School opened the second half with great pose as Fennell and Healy continued to chip away securing essential points to keep them in the game. Their intensity was carried through by Shane Mullen crashing the boards on both ends of the floor and converting his attempts to scores. Both teams encountered unfortunate turnovers in this quarter from the pressure of aggressive defense but it was Abbey Grammar School that began to break away as the quarter finished 48 – 30 in their favour.


The final quarter saw both schools continue to play until the very last second but it was a little too late for High School as Peter O’Hagan hit an impressive reverse hook shot to send his team to the winners podium. Abbey Grammar School continued to pull away and the game finished with a scoreline of 55 – 37.

Abbey Grammar School (Newry) 55 (33) (Aaron O’Reilly 21, Aaron Miller 16, Peter O’Hagan 12) CBS High School (Clonmel) 37 (17) (Aaron Fennell 21, Brian Healy 13, Shane Mullen 13)

MVP; Aaron Miller (Abbey Grammar School)

Aquinas U16 girls

An inspiring all round performance from Clonaslee College saw the Laois team crowned All Ireland U16 C Girls Schools League Champions after their triumphant win over Aquinas Grammar School, 47-21. 

Clonaslee’s Laura Hogan, received the ‘MVP’ award finishing with a total of 19 points. Hogan, who was the focal point for Clonaslee’s success, played the game from start to finish in a determined manner in order to bring the title back to her school.

With both teams arriving armed with a mass of supporters, the atmosphere alone set the pace for this eventful All Ireland Final. However, it was Clonaslee College that came off the bench all guns blazing as Hogan hit the opening shot. Aquinas Grammar School soon responded with Roisin Murray hitting both free throws that she was awarded. Unfortunately, these were the only points her side netted in the first quarter as the scoreline finished 8-2 to Clonaslee.

Clonaslee were too strong for Aquinas

As the game progressed Hogan rose to the challenge and scored a powerful 9 points in the second quarter. Teammate Heather Conroy also chipped in as she continued to attack the gaps in the key to help increase their lead further and end the half 25 – 8 ahead.

Coming into the second half Aquinas were not about to roll over and give up, with big scores from Aislinn McFarland and a huge three pointer from Laoise Carey, Clonaslee began to feel the pressure of maintaining their lead. The Belfast side increased their defensive pressure and although they challenged every shot and drove on each loose ball they failed to execute on the boards as Clonaslee picked up vital offensive rebounds which saw them convert them into key baskets.

Fast-breaks kept Aquinas in the game

Clonaslee’s Conroy continued to push the ball up the floor and not only did she hit some magnificent shots but she also fed her teammates with smooth full court passes to seal the deal and bring the title home to Laois.

Final score: 47-21

The final score was 47 – 21.

Aquinas Grammar School (Belfast) 21 (8) (Roisin Murray & Aislinn McFarland 6, Laoise Carey 3) Clonaslee College (Laois) 47 (24) (Laura Hogan 19, Meaghan Dunne 19, Heather Conroy 9)

MVP; Laura Hogan (Clonaslee College)

Colaiste Chriost Ri were crowned under 19 C Boys’ All Ireland Schools League Champions after a thrilling win over Abbey Grammar School with the final score at 51 – 48.

It was Kevin Garcia of Colaiste Chriost Ri that was awarded the respected ‘MVP’ award after a stellar all-star performance and a contribution of a powerful 20 points.

In a game that started in the stands, each school battled against one another through chants and cheers thus setting the most exciting and energetic crowd the Arena has seen all week. It was Abbey Grammar School who had been crowned U16 C champions earlier that morning to open up the score board in this hard fought final with a quick lay-up from their captain Conor Campbell. Colaiste Chriost Ri were quick to respond as Kevin Garcia stepped in to knock down two big shots for his Cork side. Although the energy was electric on the floor and in the crowd both teams struggled to find their momentum and the quarter finished with a low score of 6 – 4 to Abbey Grammar School.

Abbey Grammar U16 & U19 team

As the game progressed both teams stepped their game up another gear as the second quarter was score for score. Colaiste Chriost Ri’s Anothony O’Sullivan began this quarter with not one but three consecutive scores to keep the hope of victory alive for his team. Terry Guo from Abbey Grammar School matched O’Sullivan’s pace and put some vital scores on the board for his school, finishing the half 18 – 16 in Abbey Grammar School’s favour.

Colaiste Chriost Ri started the second half with power and conviction as Garcia nailed a huge three pointer sending the Cork crowd into an ecstatic frenzy. Abbey Grammar School were quick to respond with an almost identical three pointer from Aaron Miller. However, it was at this point that Colaiste Chriost Ri noticed a gap and began to pull away from the Newry side. O’Sullivan and teammate Kyle Malone attacked the basket and their relentless efforts were duly rewarded. Garcia also continued his all-star performance and knocked down another two three pointers to push his team into the lead.

Abbey Grammar School entered the final quarter 12 points down, but with everything to play for and nothing to lose they grabbed each opportunity they were presented with and began to claw their way back into the game. Niall McArdle began the turn around for the Newry side as he glided by the defence making it more difficult for Colasite Chriost Ri to maintain their lead. The increased energy was evident on the Newry bench as the team and crowd chanted the side back into the game. Miller continued to impressed and hit a big three pointer to mount the pressure even more on Colaiste Chriost Ri’s defensive game.

This game came down to the final minute and with 45 seconds to go Abbey Grammar School had managed to come back into the game with only one point down. Unfortunately they sent Colaiste Chriost Ri to the free throw line but luckily for them these attempts were not converted into scores. The defensive pressure continued and Abbey Grammar School achieved a 5 second violation to gain possession of the ball but Colaiste Chriost Ri’s O’Sullivan attacked the basket and was sent to the free throw line once again. For the first time in this game both crowds were silent, O’Sullivan made his free throws but Abbey Grammar School’s Miller responded with another three pointer. Just when the game could go either way Abbey Grammar School fouled on two more occasions and both O’Sullivan and Greg Prochel made their free throws to win the game by 3 points.

The final score was 51 – 48

Abbey Grammar School (Newry) 48 (18) (Aaron Miller 16, Niall McArdle 13, Terry Guo 8) Colaiste Chriost Ri (Cork) 51 (16) (Kevin Garcia 20, Anthony O’Sullivan 15, Greg Prochal 8)

MVP; Kevin Garcia (Colaiste Chriost Ri)

Source: Basketball Ireland (



Junior finals – the round up

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)

Top scorers:

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

Top scores:

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).

Ulster Elks U14 Girls - The 'perfect' season

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.

Fierce competition in the U14 girls finals

Final Score: Ulster Elks 33 – Donagh 24

MVP: Enya Maguire (Ulster Elks)

Top scorers:

A. Maguire – 13 points (Ulster Elks)

V. O’Connor – 6 points (Donagh)

Omagh Thunder vs Newry Fliers – U14 (B) Boys

Flyers and Thunder - 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.

This is one very happy coach

Final Score: Omagh Thunder 31 – Newry Fliers 27

MVP: Tyrone Weir

Top Scorers:

E. McAleer – 12 points (Omagh Thunder)

C. Cumiskey – 10 points (Newry Fliers)

Belfast Star vs Donagh– U14 (A) Boys

Belfast Star put the pressure on Donagh

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.

Belfast Star U14 take the trophy

Final Score: Belfast Star 49- Donagh 23

MVP: Josh Briers (Belfast Star)

Top scorers:

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 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.

Donagh - Blackwater Steelers

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.

Donagh remained focused throughout the game

Final Score: Donagh 33 – Tyrone Towers 26

MVP: Ellen O’Brien

Top scorers:

E. O’Brien – 11 points (Donagh)

E. McKenna – 9 points (Donagh)

E. Lafferty – 8 points (Tyrone)

Newry Flyers vs Rising Stars – U16 (B) Boys

Rising Stars - U16 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).

Nice shooting touch from both teams

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

Top scorers:

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.

Belfast Star - U16 boys

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.

Letterkenny Blaze - u16 Champions

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

Seeing double...

Top Scorers:

C. Hickey – 14 points (Letterkenny Blaze)

A. Ryan – 10 points (Belfast Star)

Omagh Thunder vs A-Town Tigers – U18 (B) Boys

The Tigers - U18 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.

Omagh Thunder went on a run in the second half

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

Top Scorers:

M. Cardenas – 17 points (Omagh Thunder)

J. Brownlee – 16 points (Andersonstown Tigers)

Belfast Star vs Letterkenny Blaze – U18 (A) Boys

Belfast Star powered their way to victory

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.

Belfast Star - U18 Boys

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.

Letterkenny Blaze were prepared for a tough game

Final Score: Belfast Star 82 – Letterkenny Blaze 45

MVP: Aidan Quinn

Top Scorers:

A. Quinn – 21 points

C. Hickey – 9 points

Tyrone Towers vs Lisburn – U19 Girls

Tyrone Towers - U18 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).

Lisburn U19 team come away with the trophy

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

Top scorers: 

O. Foley – 7 points (Towers)

S. Moyes – 13 points (Lisburn)

N. Cooper – 12 points (Lisburn)


Articles: Cathal Loughran  |  Tony McGaharan

Photography:  John Wynne