Team Left Bank 73pts
St Mary’s 74pts
Team Left Bank Kilkenny lost to last year’s National League champions, St Mary’s (Castleisland) by a single point in a nail-biting, action packed thriller in O’Loughlin Gaels on Saturday in front of a packed gallery. After losing in Kerry a couple of weeks ago, Kilkenny had targeted this game as one that could be won.
St Mary’s have lost only one game this season and that was to high flying Ballon BC, who are preparing to enter the Superleague next year.
The first quarter action started at blistering pace. The defensive effort was immense from both sides, but the home team had the edge early on with Enda Roberts and Dean Kavanagh working hard to create a platform for Julian O’Keeffe, who was unstoppable. Hn this quarter he notched 10 points.
St Mary’s went to their inside game early on getting Anton Fitzgerald going from the start. He was a handful throughout, using his vast experience at this level to full advantage. The crowd was a big factor and they really got behind the home team who responded with some fine scores.
Padraig Morrissey came off the bench and got into the game straight away, picking up six points in the quarter. The locals went in at the break with a slender but well deserved six point lead.
Best form ever
The message was clear, ‘more of the same’. Team Left Bank had played some of their best offence of the season in that first period. The plays worked on in training week in, week out were creating openings at will and exploiting the Mary’s defence.
Dean Kavanagh picked up some nice scores at the start of the second, followed by a big three pointer from Brian Hogan and another from Padraig Morrissey. Castleisland also had a good spell in this period. The standout players for Kerry were Declan Wall, who hit two of his seven three pointers in this quarter, and their European signing S. Marcinkevicius, who caused a lot of damage inside in a fairly even quarter.
The teams went in at the half with the momentum with Mary’s despite remaining six points down after a half way line buzzer beat three pointer from Declan Wall.
The third quarter was frustrating as St Mary’s worked their way back and dominated for large periods. They had upped their defence and scoring opportunities were not as easy to come by for the locals. James Butler and Julian O’Keeffe kept Team Left Bank in the game with some fantastic scores.
However, the limelight was well and truly on Wall for St Mary’s, who was devastating from three point range.He hit another three of them in this quarter. He was virtually unstoppable.
The play of the game came in this quarter when St Mary’s ran on a fast break and Julian O’Keeffe got back to block P. Fleming’s basket bound shot at the height of his jump. This play created a big stir in the crowd and among the Kilkenny players.
Captain Dean Kavanagh told the players that the game was still there for the taking if they applied themselves for the remaining 10 minutes. The pace, against all the odds, increased. It was real edge of the seat stuff with only three points separating the teams.
James Butler started the quarter with six massive points for Team Left Bank. The reply was a controversial three pointers by Fitzgerald and another by Declan Wall. St Mary’s edged into a four point lead coming into the final period of the game.
A massive three pointer from Julian O’Keeffe left one point between the teams with 20 seconds left following some impressive rebounding from Philip Brennan, who was a rock in defence. St May’s inbounded the ball and the Team Left Bank targeted P. Fleming to foul, forcing him to shoot free throws and ensuring that another possession would be had by the home team.
There was controversy when St Mary’s came out of a time out and Declan Wall stepped up to the line to take the free throws. The Kilkenny players and crowd were incensed at this apparent effort to deceive the referees. What a pity because the game had been played in the best of spirit before this.
The referees duly interjected and P. Fleming was brought up to take the free throws. He missed them both and possession was back with Kilkenny team with 14 seconds left. The ball was brought down the court with purpose and passed to Philip Brennan, who faked a shot and gave a defence splitting pass to James Butler under the basket. In desperation the Mary’s defence fouled him with only one second left.
James stepped up to take the two shots. The first came off the back of the ring and bounced out. The second hit the same spot and cruelly bounced out to hand victory to the visitors. James had scored 19 points, played one of the best games of his life, but luck deserted him in the end.
This was one of the best games ever of senior basketball played in O’Loughlin’s. It produced edge of the seat stuff with a single shot separating the teams in the end.
Kilkenny can take a lot of positives out of the game. The team now look forward to meeting another Kerry outfit, St Brendan’s in Tralee on Saturday knowing they have the class to survive any test.
State of play
Team Left Bank remain in second place in the Southern Conference with four games left to play. They travel to Kerry on Saturday. That will is followed by two home games against Blue Demons (Saturday, February 18) and Neptune (Satuday, February 25). The final game is away to Liam McHale’s Ballina on March 3.
To ensure an all important home draw in the quarter-finals Kilkenny must win these games and hope that the crowd who came out on Saturday night will lend their support again in the next two home games.
Scorers: Julian O’Keeffe (25), James Butler (19), Padraig Morrissey (15), Dean Kavanagh (8), Enda Roberts (3), Brian Hogan (3), Philip Brennan, Andy Piper, Lughaidh O’Neill, Liam O’Shaughnessy, David Clerkin.