THE Kilkenny Stars boys under-14 basketball team completed a fantastic season by securing a domestic double on consecutive Wednesdays in the O’Loughlin/Gaels centre.
First they met Castlecomer in a winner-takes-all League decider. After a slow start, the Stars strength in depth paid dividends and they ran out comfortable winners.
Next up was the championship final against a much improved and physically strong Portlaoise team. After an impressive first quarter, the Stars lapsed to allow Portlaoise to level at half-time. The Stars regrouped and pulled away to win by a comfortable margin, finishing the season unbeaten.
The League final
Kilkenny Stars 36, Castlecomer 21
Kilkenny Stars started slowly with only Eoin Kelly scoring in the first quarter. Comer’s star player, Shane Dunne inspired them into a 6-2 lead. The strong driving Evan Stapleton lifted the Stars in the second quarter, with Adam Grogan also impressing. Still they trailed by two at half time.
Kilkenny Stars lifted their game in the second half with Eddie Byrne and Colum Prendiville to the fore. Castlecomer put in a great effort with Shane Dunne, Sean Buggy and Pierce Walsh doing well, but the dogged defence of the Kilkenny team was too much.
Cian Butler was only one of the Kilkenny Stars who put in a supreme defensive effort. Kilkenny secured a deserved League title, winning by 15 points.
Kilkenny Stars - Colum Prendiville (12), Evan Stapleton (8), Eddie Byrne (8), Rory Phillips (2), Eoin Kelly (2), Adam Grogan (2), Cian Butler (2), Jack Gargan, Eric Gordon, Ernestas Budzilas, Finn O’Neill.
Castlecomer - Shane Dunne (8), Sean Buggy (4), Adam O’Grady (2), Ian Holohan (2), Pierce Walsh (2), Matthew Cullen (2), Patrick Darcy (1), Eoin O’Rourke, Ciaran Fahey, Kevin Brennan, Richard Brennan, Ben Hamilton.
The Championship final
Kilkenny Stars 43, Portlaoise 33
Kilkenny Stars entered the game as favourites, but they faced a determined and strong Portaoise team. Player of the year Colum Prendiville took on the challenge, leading his team into a six point first quarter lead.
Portlaoise responded strongly in the second quarter, with Conor Smith and their best player on the night, Aaron Coughlan
impressing as they levelled the score at 15 each at half-time. Cian Butler pierced the Portlaoise defense with conviction to keep Kilkenny in touch during the second quarter.
Again into the second half Kilkenny Stars pulled away, with Colum Prendiville in unstoppable form. Rory Phillips showed great skill by shooting some stylish scores, including a 3-pointer. Stars led by 15 points but eased off slightly allowing Aaron Coughlan in for easy scores to improve the final scoreline for Portlaoise.
Kilkenny Stars - Colum Prendiville (23), Rory Phillips (9), Cian Butler (8), Eddie Byrne (3), Jack Gargan, Eoin Kelly, Evan Stapleton, Eric Gordon, Ernestas Budzillas, Ben Jordan, Adam Grogan.
Portlaoise - Aaron Coughlan (14), Daniel Nolan (10), Conor Smith (6), Pauric Tierney (2), Cian Nolan (1), Liam Kinsella, Eli McEvoy, Conor McKenna, J.B. O’Byrne, Jack Duffin, Patrick Farrell, Gavin Fitzpatrick.
This Kilkenny Stars team has matured throughout the season. The squad put in a fantastic effort and are worthy double champions. They are the South East area representatives in the All-Ireland finals in Sligo shortly.