Women pipped on the line
BOTH the women’s and men’s Midland Masters teams headed to Kilkenny last weekend to compete in the opening tournament of the masters season.
The women’s team, having competed in and win the 2019 tournament, had their opening game on Friday night against Cork Cougers. The game was frantic and with tournament rules to get use to the women lacked a bit of their usual composure. However, despite this they secured their first win was by five points.
Saturday morning bright and early the men’s team were making their debut on the masters’ circuit and with a few injuries on the team they recruited players nationwide. These included basketball legend Jerome Westbrooks who hails from the USA and acquired legendary basketball status in the 1980s. Now aged 62 years he showed no sign of slowing down. The men won their opening game comfortably against Waterford beating them by 18 points.
Day two arrived with a double header in store, with both women’s and men’s teams playing back to back for their second rounds. The women were first on the timetable, their opponents a solid Rockets side from Dublin.
In this game the women showed their experience of playing and training together for the past 12 months. There was fast ball movement, fast breaks and everyone was on shooting form. Attracta Phelan, Jean McEvoy, Catherine Ashe and Pam Grogan were clocking up points from the guard positions with Jackie Coleman, Edel Folen and Claire Folye backing them up with inside points.
Twin sisters Deirdre and Grainne Tomlinson’s speed proved too much for the opposition with both sisters running the floor and drawing fouls along with plenty of baskets leading from the front. With Olive Maher pushing the ball the women won comfortably 38-18.
Straight after came the men’s second round game against another Dublin side St Marks. Captain Rody McEvoy took control from the onset with himself and guard Tommy Costello pushing from the front.
It was a physical game but with strength inside from Ger Egan, Anthony Dunne and Alan Burnell’s astounding strength and jumping ability their speed blew their opponents away.
Solid scoring from Gediminas Simkus, Barry Ryan, James Mulhall and holding the defence at the back keeping it together. Jerome Westbrooks and Kaspars Abrams made their presence felt. The men made a comfortable win of 26-17.
Sunday brought the semi-finals and again the women were up first meeting St Brendan’s in a very physical game inside and on the perimeter. The women fought hard and yet again Deirdre Tomlinson’s hard drives to the basket while also drawing fouls kept the opposition at bay.
Sunday also saw the reintroduction of Anna Connolly having picked up a calf injury on the Friday. Anna’s presence on the court was a huge difference to the women’s side with her demand of the centre court and rebound abilities saw the women win again by 12 points.
The men’s semi-finals was always going to be tough. Carlow Rock are known for their physical games along with outside shooting prowess. It was always going to be a tough semi-final for the lads to face.
Carlow Rock didn’t let their reputation down, they came out of the blocks clocking up scores. However the Midland men fought back with everything they had. The inside play is where the battles are won and lost, with blood, sweat and tears being drawn to win every rebound possible.
The men finally settled into their offence and with a tight battle in every quarter, they finally pulled away with a lead and won the game by eight points.
In the afternoon finals the women faced their old opponents from the 2019 final, Dublin All-Stars. It was always going to be a big battle from the off.
The women struggled to settle against the physical Dublin side but pulled into a six-point lead going into the third quarter. With some vital substitutes Dublin fought back hard and brought the game to 19 points a piece. Pam Grogan missed an open shot with one second to go seeing the game ending in a dead heat.
Kilkenny Masters’ rules state that in a tie situation there is a sudden death decider with one team member stepping up to the free throw line from each team. Catherine Ashe was the heroine on the day and stepped up on behalf of the Midland women. Despite her heroic efforts Dublin won on free throws with the game finishing 20-21 seeing the Midland women loosing out by a whisker.
A defeat maybe for the women but now it was the men’s turn to face Killarney in their cup final. Killarney held a small bench but their fitness was apparent throughout the tournament.
Tiredness was kicking in for the Midland team but despite this the men were ready to play. Killarney were straight out of the blocks while the Midland men were slow to start. They were also missing Ger Egan inside on finals day. However, despite the second quarter of uncountable turnovers the men kept their own.
Jerome Westbrooks played a stormer in defence keeping Killarney’s top player at bay. Tommy Costello hit some vital outside shots in the third quarter, bringing the game yet again to neck and neck.
At 21 points a piece, captain Rody McEvoy hit a big outside
three pointer to open up a small gap. In the dying minutes the Midland men picked up their intensity with Alan Burnell pulling some super rebounds from the boards. Duo Tommy Costello and Rody McEvoy pushed the men over the finish line and were triumphant in lifting the Kilkenny Masters Men’s title.
Rody McEvoy lifted the coveted trophy and Tommy Costello picked up MVP on the day.