ST Brogan’s U19 basketball team powered through to the All-Ireland final with a convincing 54 – 32 victory over Pobalscoil Neasin, Baldoyle, in the National Basketball Arena, Tallaght.
They will now face Cork rivals Scoil Mhuire Gan Smál, Blarney, who they beat by the narrowest of margins back in December, at the same venue in two weeks’ time.
St Brogan’s continued their unprecedented unbeaten season by claiming yet another scalp, this time Pobalscoil Neasin, Baldoyle.
A 9am Monday morning tip-off meant that the Brogan’s boys travelled to Dublin on the eve of the game to ensure that they would be well rested.
Traffic problems in Dublin meant that the game was delayed and Brogan’s got some extra time to get used the court in the National Basketball Arena.
Brogan’s continued where they had left off from last week’s quarter-finals in Nenagh, storming into an early lead with Tony Ellis scoring some great outside shots.
A man-to-man defence kept Baldoyle from operating their inside game initially but some good scores by their talisman, Gabriel Ogundipe, kept the Dublin side in touch.
With some careless fouls and lapses in concentration, Baldoyle punished Brogan’s from the free throw line and led 16 – 12 after the first quarter.
With a number of Brogan’s players in early foul trouble, things were looking bad for the Bandon team.
In previous seasons a turnaround like this might have left the players demoralised but Brogan’s have grown as a team and did not let this setback phase them.
Coach Jamie Wilkinson, looking to exploit the weaknesses in the opposition, employed a high-pressing defence.
Baldoyle’s guards could not cope with the relentless pressure and Brogan’s mopped up mislaid passes to score easy lay-ups.
With Michael O’Sullivan shooting well and the unpredictable Anthony Moynihan lighting up Tallaght with some great dribbling and passing, Brogant’s dominated the second quarter, outscoring Baldoyle 20 – 5 to take a 32 – 21 half-time lead.
Roared on by the travelling supporters, Brogan’s continued the effective pressing game with Clifford Niles, Gavin Shiels and James McCarthy terrorising the point guard and winning excellent turnover ball.
With the game slipping away and under serious defensive pressure, Baldoyle resorted to some speculative three-point shooting. However, helped by Tony Ellis, the outstanding Aiden O’Donoghue was imperious under the boards claiming rebound after rebound.
With the game winding down, Brogan’s may have taken the opportunity to sit back and take a breather.
There was still time, though, for irrepressible captain Elliot Asemota to clock up even more scores and leave the contest beyond any doubt.
Asemota robbed the guard twice in 10 seconds and nailed two lay-ups to bring his personal tally to 20 points and complete an emphatic victory.
St Brogan’s will face a very familiar Blarney outfit in the final in two weeks’ time with the Blarney side looking to avenge their narrow defeat at Neptune Stadium in the Cork final.
The two teams have not only played each other several times over the years, but many of the players play for the same club team, Ballincollig.
An epic encounter is expected with the victors not only claiming the All-Ireland title, but perhaps more importantly, bragging rights on Leeside. It’s all to play for.