Resolute Delta hang on to win first title

 

ANTHONY JENKINS led by example and Lennie McMillan stepped up when it counted to propel Delta Notre Dame to their first cup victory at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght last night.

Delta won the trophy the hardest possible way beating the top two teams in the league on the way to their encounter yesterday against third-placed St Vincent's. In that sequence of wins they pulled off one of the great comebacks in the history of Irish basketball when they turned around a 29-point half-time deficit against Star of the Sea in the first round last October. On Saturday evening they came back from being 19 points down to win their semifinal against Neptune.

Yesterday it was their turn to withstand a spirited revival by St Vincent's and they did so with great authority. There were times in which the quality was breathtaking but it was frustrating to watch two teams cancel each other out with the kind of strong defence beloved of coaches but loathed by spectators.

Delta made the better start and led by six quick points from Jenkins and were 9-3 ahead after a stop-start opening four-minute spell. However, St Vincent's came back and Stephen McGuirk levelled the game with two consecutive baskets to make the score 11-11.

After that the teams were tied on six separate occasions until Clive Brady put Delta 24-22 in front after 13 minutes. That was the cue, it seemed, for the mercurial McMillan to hit eight consecutive points including a trade mark three-pointer. In the space of just 90 seconds a close game was turned on its head with Delta leading 32-22.

By halftime they still had a 10-point advantage (37-27) and St Vincent's had the look of a frightened team. In the second quarter the Glasnevin side scored only seven points as Matthew Thompson ruled the defensive boards for Delta.

it At the start of the second period was Delta again who were quickly off the mark and they opened with a three-pointer from Jenkins and went 42-27 ahead before St Vincent's responded.

As Joey Boylan's squad snapped out of their near trance-like state, they also changed tactics significantly and began to run the ball with speed at Delta. From a game of patient offenses, the nature of the contest changed completely - it was suddenly thrilling and absorbing. Delta lost their control as the helter-skelter St Vincent's punched home 12 of the next 13 points with Doug Arnold claiming six of them.

Although Jenkins stopped the rot for Delta, St Vincent's were on a roll and, just seven minutes into the second hall, they wiped out the deficit to level the game at 47-47 with a close range basket from Eric Stevens.

The sides then exchanged the lead on several occasions until it was tied again at 60-60 with just over six minutes left. At that stage McMillan stepped out of second half obscurity to hit another critically timed three-pointer to put Delta 63-60 ahead.

That precipitated a hat-trick of three-pointers - two of them for Delta - which gave them a four-point lead.

From there on Delta held on to their advantage showing great resolve in the face of an energetic St Vincent's but, in a heart-stopping last minute, they had to withstand two stunning three-pointers from Arnold that might have broken teams of lesser quality.

Alas it was too little too late for St Vincent's as McMillan stepped up again to make four free throws in the last 40 seconds to give Delta victory.