Thunder’s Italian job

by Gazette Reporter

Swords Thunder basketball club recently closed out their 2013-14 season with a series of events which capped what has been a remarkably successful year.

The winners of the Dublin Sports Awards Team Of The Year award secured the Three Nations Cup title in Lecce, Italy, as it was announced that their American player, Alex Zurn, was Basketball Ireland’s Division 1 player of the year.

In Italy, Thunder impressed on every level, coming in as the underdogs in the competition which pitted them against favourites Bratislava from Slovakia and Italian teams Lecce Basketball Club and Costra Basket during the tournament.

In their game against Bratislava, Thunder started slowly but a combination of strong pressure play and tactical substitutions led to a decisive third and fourth quarters which were the foundation for an impressive 113-64.

Their second match against home club Lecce Basketball Club was a closer affair, but they still managed to hold out for a 116-94 victory.

The team were focused on taking home the trophy in their final game against Costra Basket, and controlled the game from start to finish, winning 101-86 to become the first Irish team ever to collect the Italian Federations three countries tournament.

Speaking to GazetteSport after the tournament, manager Dave Baker said: “ It was a great finish to our season winning the Three Nations Cup in Italy and a testament to the hard work put in by the squad and management. Given the fact that all other teams were enjoying their summer from March, we kept working to achieve this goal.

“The entire tournament was a great success and we really are proud of the team considering what powerhouses both Italy and Slovakia are in European basketball. Before it began, no one really rated our chances but in true underdog style we showed we wanted it more and adapted to be the first Irish team in history to win it.”

Meanwhile, Zurn was named Division 1 player of the year by Basketball Ireland as part of their prestigious annual awards which recognise players, coaches, referees, table officials and administrators across the sport in Ireland who have made the most significant contributions to the game.

Zurn, who has been in Ireland for the last year while attending Dublin Business School from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, will receive his award at the 2014 end-of-season awards ceremony in the National Basketball Arena on Saturday, May 31.

“The past year has been an amazing experience, learning and developing under coach Baker,” said Zurn. “The success with Swords Thunder and in college has been a dream come true. To finish the season collecting the Three Nations Cup in Italy was truly amazing.”

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