Ballina end run of defeats with cup win
AFTER more than two months without a win, Ballina beat Killester 100-96 in the Sprite Cup quarter-final on Saturday in Killala.
The team that has probably won more games on passion alone over the past decade, produced a performance of old to end a run of defeats which sees them lie bottom of the Superleague table along with Dungannon who only last Wednesday beat Ballina 81-79.
However, with early season recruits Tom O'Sullivan and Brendan O'Flaherty travelling from their Cork base for the cup game, Ballina played with confidence from the start and appeared to enjoy the open nature of a high scoring first-half which they led 55-53.
In the third quarter, Ballina enjoyed their best period and with nine minutes remaining were twelve point clear but, inspired by seven points in a row from Hilliary Scott, Killester drew level at 94-94 and again at 96-96.
The crucial scores came from free throws by Ballina's Paul McStay who made two out of four in the final minute after being fouled and sent to the line twice.
Ballina had Jason Rub rite to thank for contributing 33 points while Liam McHale scored 22. Deora Marsh, who scored 15 played for most of the game suffering from the after effects of flu but coach Terry Kennedy had the rare luxury of being able to rest his ailing American and bring in O'Sullivan who finished the game on 13 points.
Ballina's love for the cup was a significant factor in their upsurge in form but just as O'Sullivan and O'Flaherty were the difference in their cup victory over St Vincent's, again the two Corkmen played a vital role, not least of which was the depth they gave the usually threadbare Ballina club down through their bench.
The game was free-flowing but littered with errors on both sides. When the scoresheet is analysed by the Dublin club, the contributions of their Americans, Hilliary Scott (45 points) and Nate Frank (29 points) only highlights the lack of impact made by their Irish players who could only muster a total of 22.
Ballina now play Delta in the semi-final at the National Arena in Tallaght at the end of the month.
In the league over the weekend Star of the Sea struggled in Dungannon where the home side's Americans Jonathon Stone (37) and Karl Ivey Jones (36) between them scored all but 11 points of the team total.
Two technical fouls in the final minute of a close game cost Dungannon a chance to catch Star who won 92-84 with Gabe Jackson their top scorer on 25 followed by Javan Dupree on 20 and Gareth McGuire on 18.
That victory keeps Star on top of the table but behind them, both St Vincent's and Tralee kept up the pressure with fine wins.
The Glasnevin side's American Rob Phelps recorded the highest individual tally of the Superleague season with 53 points in a 122-98 victory over Delta while Tralee beat last year's champions Neptune 97-92, with the Kerry club's American Ricardo Leonard scoring 44.
In the women's division one, Naomh Mhuire moved into second place in the table with a 65-60 win over Meteors at Inchicore on Saturday.
Mhuire lost the corresponding fixture before Christmas in Sandyford by 15 points and their victory yesterday was achieved without their captain and leading rebounder Eilis Ni Laoire whose back problem flared up again last week.
Mhuire played tough defence and in spite of a significant height disadvantage, took a high share of rebounds. In offence, two of the lesser known players, Ursula Kyne on 22 points and Eimear McMahon on 12 provided most of the inspiration.
Wildcats remain the outright leaders alter a 97-35 demolition of Brunell while Tolka Rovers moved up to joint fourth with a 58-54 win over cup semi-finalists Tralee.