Dublin Lions are on the way to the Hula Hoops Under 20 Men’s National Cup final following a thrilling 62-68 point win over Portlaoise Panthers in an absorbing semi-final at the Mardyke.
Tiernan Howe was one of the stand out stars for Lions in a game that really had nothing in it until the closing 40 seconds.
Neck-in-neck throughout a fast-paced and very physical game, the first quarter set the tone for the remainder as good scoring from Portlaoise’s James Gormley, James Phelan and Trevor Swayne, was matched score for score at the other end with Lions Tiernan Howe and Jack Maguire edging them into a two point lead at the end of the first.
Momentum stayed with Lions in the second as they drove on with some big scores from Neill Kavanagh, Samuel Mohamed and Oisin Rice to open up a nine-point lead going in at the half time break, 36-45.
The third and fourth quarters continued in the same vein, with neither side managing to get some breathing space on the score board and by the midway mark of the fourth, it was all square.
Huge scores from Tiernan Howe down the stretch, coupled with a massive second half display from Samuel Mohamed saw them edge ahead by a basket.
Big boards from Oisin Rice kept Lions’ noses in front and despite the best efforts of Portlaoise, Lions sealed the win from the free throw line to book a spot in the Cup final against Neptune.
Speaking afterwards, a thrilled head coach, Rob White said: “I’m more relieved than anything. We had a great first half, but we really slowed down in the second half, credit to Portlaoise.
“The thing all week has been trying to keep calm, we’re all feeling the pressure and I thought we did a really good job.”