History has been made at the National Basketball Arena as Tradehouse Central Ballincollig became the first team to win three consecutive President’s Cup titles last Saturday afternoon with a superb 73-67 overtime win over IT Carlow Basketball in a thriller that was equal parts exhilarating, frustrating and nerve wrecking.
Unbeaten at the top of the Division 1 table and heading toowards the Super League, Tradehouse Central Ballincollig were favourites to complete three-in-a-row in the President’s Cup final and sweep IT Carlow aside. Instead, they were pushed to the limit by the underdogs, who tore into Ballincollig in the first quarter to lead 24-8. Here’s a recap.
Even though Ballincollig came into the game as overwhelming favourites, Carlow did an incredible job of pushing the undefeated league leaders the whole way through to the end. The heavy underdogs managed to fight all the way into overtime before coming out on the losing end by just six points.
IT Carlow raced into an early 10-2 lead causing Ballincollig huge issues. A Kieran O’Sullivan timeout helped settle Ballincollig’s nerves somewhat as Andre Nation picked up some nice scores to keep the defending champions close early on. Carlow were growing in confidence as each minute of the first quarter passed and an upset was starting to look like a real possibility when the first quarter ended 24-13.
The second quarter started well defensively for Ballincollig as they started forcing turnovers but on the offensive end things still weren’t working smoothly as the ball never seemed to settle in their players hands. Offensively Zabola was becoming increasingly influential and Andre Nation continued to pick up scores including an impressive dunk but the champions were still struggling to contain their opponents. Back to back threes from Carlow restored their confidence and an 11-point lead 28-17. Ballincollig were looking increasingly dangerous and a nice finish by Jack Kelly. Colin Murray narrowed the gap even further to just five but the perfect half for Carlow was capped off on the buzzer as Jordan Fallon scored a huge three pointer leaving the halftime the score was 40-31.
As the second half started Ballincollig started to show more of their championship DNA as Zabola helped reduced the lead to just five with two nice fastbreak layups. Scores were increasingly hard to come by and a big three pointer from Ciaran O’Sullivan helped reduce the lead to just two with three minutes to go in the third.
Hopes of an upset were continuing to grow though as James Butler kicked off the fourth quarter with a midrange jump shot. Ciaran O’Sullivan scored his sixth consecutive point and his cousin Ronan added two to get their lead to just one. Both teams traded scores, but it was Ciaran O’Sullivan again that stepped up to give Ballincollig their first lead at 54-53. The drama wasn’t over though as Ballincollig turned the ball over and an Aaron Whelan three reduced the lead to just two with 12.7 seconds remaining. Coming out of the Ballincollig timeout, Carlow got one more opportunity and a huge last second basket saw the game go to overtime tied at 62.
Overtime started with a bang as Andre Nation had a huge alley-oop dunk to bring the Ballincollig fans to their feet. We continued to find scoring more easily and had built a six-point lead before Carlow scored a huge three to get it back to a one-point game with 2.27 remaining. With the game in the balance it was Andre Nation yet again who stepped up with a massive three-point lead to give Ballincollig a six-point lead and the President’s trophy headed to Cork for the third consecutive year.