Mary McGuire gives a roundup of an eventful weekend in basketball.
“This is just as sweet as the first time,” said MVP of the Hula Hoops Women’s National Cup final Grainne Dwyer as her side Ambassador UCC Glanmire secured their fourth Cup title in a row last weekend with an impressive and dominating 48-61 point win over Courtyard Liffey Celtics. “It’s a bit surreal. I’m emotional about it, I thought it was amazing four years ago, but this is just as sweet,” she continued.
 
A Glanmire team packed full of experienced players, including Grainne Dwyer, Aine McKenna, Claire Rockall and Chantell Alford to name but a few, drove home to victory in style in front of a large crowd at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght. A dominating opening few minutes lay down the challenge to Liffey Celtics immediately as Glanmire stormed to a 0-9 lead in the opening few minutes. A rattled Celtics quickly regrouped, and soon it was game on thanks to a fantastic score by Sorcha Tiernan off the bench. Despite the hard work by the Kildare team, experience told on the evening as defense won the day, and Glanmire kept Celtics to 48 points for the game to win in style.
 
Elsewhere, Ulster Rockets just managed to cling on to a one-point lead in their Senior Women’s National Cup final earlier to win 54-55 against Marble City Hawks in overtime. A thrilling match saw just one point between the sides at half time (20-21) with players impressing all over the court, most notably Zee Shahid Martin and Mairead McNally of Rockets and Kelly O’Hallahan and Aine Sheehy of Hawks. The last quarter is where all boiled over though, as Hawks’ Kelly O’Hallahan stepped up yet another gear, grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck and suddenly, there was just one score between the teams again. Shahid-Martin responded well at the other end, but Sheehy hit a massive three to close the gap back to two. It was a nail biting couple of minutes before O’Hallahan tied the game up from the free throw line (47-47) and it was into overtime. Sheehy got the overtime scoring underway well with a nice three-pointer to put Hawks in the lead, but it was to be a short-lived lead as Carlee Lough responded with a superb three pointer and added two cool-headed free throws. With just seconds on the clock, Aine Sheehy netted an absolutely fantastic three-pointer, but time had ran out and they finished down by one, 54-55.
 
BFG Neptune meanwhile added another special chapter to their club history earlier on Sunday as they secured their third Cup title of the weekend when they overcame KUBS 75-86 in the Hula Hoops Under 20 Men’s final. Indeed this afternoon’s game was simply the icing on the cake for a team that has been dazzling spectators in the Arena all weekend. First, they overcame KUBS in the Under 18 final on Friday night, before going on to overcome Ej Sligo All-Stars in a nail-biting President’s Cup final on Saturday evening and today, it was three from three as the side – powered by an MVP performance from Adam Drummond – stormed home to glory. Marcus Black shone bright for the Dublin side, but in the face of a Neptune team who had one thing and one thing only on their mind – winning - it just wasn’t enough in the end.
 
Before that, DCU Mercy made it two wins from two finals as they claimed the Under 20 Cup title with a 42-76 win over Pyrobel Killester. Nicole Clancy, Aoife Maguire and Bronagh Power-Cassidy were the spark behind the DCU display, and with speedy guard Anna Brennan causing big problems for Killester, forcing turnovers and converting well at the other end, it was to be a tough day at the office for Killester. Ash McCann and Ali Connolly were the bright stars of the Killester line out, and fought hard and battled well to keep the team determined right up until the final buzzer, but it was truly DCU’s day and they ran out deserving winners in the end.
 
Griffith Swords Thunder were crowned Hula Hoops National Cup champions on Saturday evening after an extremely convincing 21-point win over Pyrobel Killester in the final at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght.
 
President Michael D. Higgins was in the Arena to witness a superb MVP performance from Jose Maria Gil Narbon and a powerful point guard display by Isaac Westbrooks in the face of friends and former teammates. A Killester trio of 2010 National Cup winners all started the game with Al Casey captaining the side alongside Peder Madsen and the indefatigable Jermaine Turner.
It was Swords who built up an early lead though, before Killester young gun Paddy Sullivan brought them back into contention when he let fly with his first touch of the game for three points. Turner’s reintroduction late in the first brought with it his first and only Superman impression of the evening, and while it looked destined to be a low scoring game, with 27 points off the bench, Dave Baker’s side had enough fire power for a six-point lead at half-time.
 
Swords really began to dominate in the third keeping Killester scoreless for the last four minutes of the quarter, and it was a case of seeing the win safely home as Westbrooks was on hand to guide them to glory.
 
“I won’t let this Cup out of my hands,” said Head Coach Dave Baker afterwards. “I’m over the moon, it’s an incredible experience. Last year we were on the opposite end of it, this year we’re lifting it – I won’t let it out of my hands. We’ve taken our focus off games before, but we kept going and kept fighting. The guys were incredible this evening, everyone chipped in and worked for each other, they’re amazing.”
 
Earlier in the evening meanwhile, BFG Neptune made it two wins from two finals as they clung firmly on to their lead to win out 97-85 in the end after a thrilling clash with Ej Sligo All-Stars. Neptune were led by their talisman Sean Jenkins who finished with 32 points, along with Gary Walsh who netted five three-pointers at crucial times for the Cork side. A fast-paced and competitive final was in store for fans, with Sligo having the better of the opening exchanges to storm into an early lead. However, a superb second quarter display from Neptune including a half court buzzer beater from Gary Walsh tied the game at 49 apiece and Neptune were on their way to glory.
 
"We've taken every day like it's the last final, we couldn't plan too far ahead of any game," admitted Head Coach Paul Kelleher. "Our young players blended extraordinarily well with our senior players, but we can celebrate until midnight and then we refocus on tomorrow morning and the Under 20 final."
 
HULA HOOPS NATIONAL CUP RESULTS – Session 2 (Saturday AM)
Hula Hoops U18 Women’s National Cup Final
DCU Mercy 75-47 Ambassador UCC Glanmire
 
Hula Hoops Men’s NICC Final
Blue Demons 78-72 UCD Marian
 
HULA HOOPS NATIONAL CUP RESULTS – Session 3 (Saturday PM)
Hula Hoops President’s Cup Final
BFG Neptune 97-85 Ej Sligo All-Stars
 
Hula Hoops Men’s National Cup Final (Pat Duffy Cup)
Pyrobel Killester 72-51 Griffith Swords Thunder
 
HULA HOOPS NATIONAL CUP RESULTS (JAN 29TH)
Hula Hoops Women's National Cup final
Courtyard Liffey Celtics 48-61 Ambassador UCC Glanmire
 
Hula Hoops U20 Women's National Cup Final
Pyrobel Killester 42-76 DCU Mercy
 
Hula Hoops U20 Men’s National Cup
KUBS BC 75-85 BFG Neptune
 
Hula Hoops Senior Women’s Cup Final
Marble City Hawks 54-55 Ulster Rockets (after overtime)