Team Left Bank Kilkenny organised their first big Christmas basketball tournament in the O’Loughlin Gaels centre, which attracted major clubs from the area. The two big finals involved Team Left Bank against Portlaois (men’s) while the ladies decider was between Waterford Wildcats and Portlaois Panthers.
Results - men’s final, Team Left Bank Kilkenny 61, Portlaoise – 49; ladies final, Waterford Wildcats 58, Portlaoise Panthers 44.
In the men’s competition Team Left Bank Kilkenny, Portlaoise and Kilkenny Sharks competed in what was an evenly matched grouping while in the ladies, Waterford Wildcats, Portlaoise Panthers and Berkely (Thomastown) served up some excellent games.
There was an early start to the action with Berkely, who compete in the South East and Midlands Leagues, having a 10am opening against high flying National League team Portlaoise. The experience of the Laois ladies was the difference and they won by 12 points.
This game was followed by one of the best rivalries in basketball in this area over the last decade. Team Left Bank took on Portlaoise in a game that saw little between the teams for most of the game. All but level going into the final period Team L.B. found another gear and ran out 10 point winners.
Berkely faced Super League team Waterford Wildcats and gave a good account of themselves, keeping the game tight for the most part. Wildcats had the benefit of being able to play two separate teams of five throughout, which was the telling factor. They ran out 14 point winners.
Team Left Bank then were put to the test by Kilkenny Sharks, having to come from nine points down at half-time to dominate the second half before winning by 10 points.
One of the games of the day followed with Portlaoise Panthers facing Wildcats. Both were already into the final to face each other again, but neither gave an inch. There was little between them throughout and the crowd was treated to some fantastic shooting, none more than from Catherine O’Sullivan, Portlaoise who went on to win the Most Valuable Player Award for the ladies competition. The game went to overtime. Fitness proved the deciding factor as the Wildcats won by four points.
Another belter was played between Portlaoise and Kilkenny Sharks to decide who would go on to compete in the final against Team Left Bank. This game went all the way also. Kilkenny Sharks had a four point lead with only a couple of minutes to go, but the experienced heads from Portlaoise pulled their team over the line by three points.
The ladies final was excellent. The standard of play was fantastic. The teams were neck and neck for the most part but in the final quarter the fresher legs of the Wildcats got them through.
A mouth watering men’s final was in place but both teams started slowly. The pace was slow and both defences were on top. The teams traded the lead throughout the first three quarters. Team Left Bank had a one point lead going into the final period, but they found another gear, led by men’s Most Valuable Player Brian Hogan. Brian’s commitment in this quarter and throughout was second to none as he defended with intensity and was a constant threat to the opposition.
It was a great team performance with every player contributing massively to ensure that the first men’s title would go to the hosts, Team Left Bank Kilkenny who outscored their opponents 21-10 in the final quarter.
Thanks were extended to all who helped make the day possible, referees, board officials, volunteers, Noel Murphy for the music and the Left Bank Bar Kilkenny who have supported this team greatly for the last two years and without whom the venture into the National League would not be possible.
What’s Next? Team Left Bank play Dublin Thunder on Sunday in a challenge match in O’Loughlin’s. There are five games left then to determine the season, starting with an away fixture in Castleisland on January 19. The closing two home games are - at O’Loughlin Gaels February 9 (7.30pm) Team Left Bank v MOFC Titans (Galway); O’Loughlin Gaels February 16 (7.30pm) Team Left Bank v Maree (Galway).