BASKETBALL: Liffey Celtics get their title challenge back on the rails

by Aaron Dunne
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Liffey Celtics 82
Brunell 69

FloMAX Liffey Celtics got their Super League title challenge very much back on the rails after they survived a second-half comeback by fellow contenders, Gurranabraher Credit Union Brunell to win out 82-69 in Leixlip Amenities Sports Centre on Saturday.
American’s Tianna Ayulo and Alexandra Navarette attacked the basket superbly, putting up a combined 48 on a night that saw the hosts carry a nine-point lead into the second half.
But, with Jayla Johnson and Kyaja Williams proving quite a handful for the Celtics defence on the inside and Danielle O’Leary hurting them from the three-point line, Brunell battled back in the third and led by three early in the fourth.
The Kildare side, however, got their defensive set-up sorted just in time to make a crucial surge down the stretch, as Navarette, Rachel Huijsdens and Áine O’Connor, between them, soaked up 38 rebounds to help see their side re-join Pyrobel Killester and Brunell at the top of the table.
“Fair play to Brunell. Every time we thought we were going to put them away, they just kept coming back” said FloMAX Liffey Celtics head coach, Karl Kilbride, who was demanding a big response from his side in the wake of their loss away to The Address UCC Glanmire the previous week.
“I thought the leadership from the girls was brilliant. Áine was amazing, while Allie and Tianna, attacking the basket were great. Everyone just stepped up.
“They’re the games you’re going to have to win if you want to win the league. But I said to the girls that this win won’t mean anything if we don’t go and do it again next week and the weeks after” he stressed.
Cheah Whitsitt turned in another solid showing for last season’s champions with a haul of 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Aine McKenna and Yasriyyah Wazweerud weighed in with a further 27.
Brynley Fitzgerald finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds as DCU Mercy did enough to see off Trinity Meteors at home 68-63.
Hannah Thornton and Rachel Brennan also made significant contributions for the hosts as they totalled 31 points and 19 rebounds between them.
In what was the only Men’s Super League fixture to be played due to Ireland’s FIBA Basketball World Cup 2027 European Pre-Qualifier with Switzerland, Maree recorded an 84-58 win over Bright St. Vincent’s.
 in the Kingfisher Sports Arena to take the outright lead in the South Conference.

The hosts hit the ground running in this game, taking a 16-point lead by the close of the first quarter and extending that to 27 heading into the fourth.

Terence Lewis II enjoyed a big game for Maree, emerging with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Tahmir Gadsden and Kyle Carey added a further 33 against a St. Vincent’s side who still had four players on double figures, including William Jenkins with 17.

“It was always going to be tough against a strong St. Vincent’s side” said Maree head coach, Charlie Crowley.

“We knew that if we didn’t bring our best, we’d be in trouble, but, in fairness to all the lads, they put the shoulder to the wheel and reaped the rewards of it.

“We’re now fully focused on next weekend’s trip to Tralee” he insisted.

 In the Division One, McEvoy’s Cavan Eagles’ 85-77 loss on the road against Phoenix Rockets earlier in the day, meant that Templeogue secured their spot in the league semi-finals without having to bounce a ball. That, however, did not stop them beating North Conference winners, iSecure Swords Thunder 73-69 in overtime in North Anglia International School. South Conference winners, St. Paul’s Killarney stormed to a 100-46 victory over Marble City Hawks in O’Loughlin Gaels GAA Club, while Limerick Celtics ran out 58-45 winners on the road against Moy Tolka Rovers and Oblate Dynamos emerged 106-83 victors from their Dublin derby at home to Abbey Seals Dublin Lions. Scout Frame amassed a colossal 46 points that inspired Limerick Sport Huskies to an 85-67 victory over SETU Carlow in Barrow Centre on Sunday.


In the Division One, South Conference leaders, Limerick Celtics earned the bragging rights in their ferociously-fought derby with Limerick Sport Eagles in Crescent College in Friday night, winning out 115-110 in overtime. There were wins for the top three sides in the North Conference with Kavanagh’s Portlaoise Panthers seeing off a tough Mater Private Malahide outfit 85-78 in Malahide Community School, while Drogheda Wolves recorded a convincing 105-78 victory away to Moy Tolka Rovers and UCD Marian carded a 91-57 win on the road against SETU Waterford Vikings. Titans BC chalked up only their second league win of the season so far after they undid Scotts Lakers Killarney 91-84 in Coláiste Iognáid and Joels Dublin Lions put together a big second half to beat Team NorthWest 81-74 in Coláiste Bríde. Killarney Cougars’ game against SETU Carlow was postponed.

Action from Ireland’s
82-63 loss to Switzerland in the Euro Qualifiers last week.
Pic: Martin Doherty 

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