A chastening 20-point defeat to UCC Glanmire proved the turning point in the season for Pyrobel Killester, who face Brunell of Cork in this weekend’s Paudie O’Connor Cup final (Sunday, 5.30pm, National Basketball Arena).
A tight 82-79 win over the same opposition in the semi-finals, having trailed 44-38 at the break, saw Karl Kilbride’s side into the final.
American duo Christa Reed and Adella Randle El led the scoring for Killester with 23 and 21 respectively and will be key to their chances of success in Tallaght this weekend.
The pair have been key to the side’s turnaround in form, and the north inner-city side are unbeaten in two months since their wake-up call.
“We scored 17 points in the first half and 58 in the second, so it was like two different games,” Kilbride told Dublin Gazette.
“We were disappointed with our execution. In our video sessions, we watch everything back and in 24 occasions they scored, 17 were our fault.
“We were able to say this is all stuff we can literally turn around tomorrow. If you do that right in the next time, those 17 are taken off the board.
“It’s one thing to be able to say that. But it’s another thing to go out and do it. The girls have been brilliant all year.”
While they sit just three points off second place and are primed to reach the league play-offs, Kilbride says the cup is the ultimate prize for his side.
“In Irish basketball, the cup is the one that everybody really wants to win. For a lot of people, the cup would be the real glory one everyone wants to go for.
“We’re delighted to be back in the final. We were there five years ago and, at the time, we were young and gave a great account of ourselves.
“We’re looking forward to a big game. We’ve played two really close games with Brunell already this year. It should be good.
“We weren’t great at the start of the year but we made a couple of big changes, tweaked a couple of things and really changed mentally, and we’re playing with an awful lot more freedom.
“We lost to UCC by 20-odd and it was a real wake-up call.
“It was a week before the cup quarter-final, and we haven’t lost a game since.”
Brunell sit second-from-bottom in the table with just two wins from 12 games, but Kilbride is adamant that their league position doesn’t tell close to the full story.
The Cork side beat league leaders DCU Mercy in the semi-finals so cannot be underestimated in spite of their lowly league position.
“Their league form doesn’t, in any way, represent the talent they have. We played them in the game before Christmas and we only beat them in overtime.
“We were three down in overtime but we had a shot on the buzzer to win the game. It was really close.
“It was put to me that we’re favourites for the final, but for the quarter-final we weren’t favourites and for the semi-final we weren’t favourites. So being favourites doesn’t mean a lot.
“They’ve lost ten games in the league but they’ve won enough games to reach the cup final, as we saw in their semi-final against DCU.”
The club will be going for a double with their wheelchair side playing Rebel Wheelers in their final on Friday night at 6.30pm in the weekend’s curtain-raiser.