TALLAGHT, IRELAND - UCD Marian produced one of the most memorable upsets of recent years to secure an historic 60-57 victory over 11890 Killester in front of a full house at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght yesterday. It was Marian’s first appearance in a National Cup final, and they grabbed the opportunity with both hands, as they dethroned the reigning champions with a display of belief and fortitude that will live long in the memory.
UCD responded brilliantly to the challenge of a first final appearance and head coach Fran Ryan could barely conceal his delight having seen his club crowned as champions for the first time.
“We always believed we could win this,” said Ryan. “The more people said we were going to get beaten by 10 or 12, the more we believed we could win this. These guys all trust each other. It’s absolutely amazing.”
Ryan added the team had done plenty of work to prepare mentally for the game.
“I have to say a special thanks to Enda McNulty (former Armagh footballer) who did a lot of work to get us ready mentally for today. I thought the way we performed and responded was exceptional.
“It’s difficult to put into words at the moment. There is so much work done in this club, I’m just a co-ordinator really. It’s just great for everyone involved. We’ll have to wait a few days to let it sink in.”
Ryan was also thrilled with the performance of Most Valuable Player James Crowder.
“James is a young player who is still learning at this level. He showed his strength today with the way he reacted after coming off the bench,” he said.
Jermaine Turner got Killester off the mark, but there was an almost instant response from fellow American Crowder who hit three for UCD. Paul Meany followed up to give UCD an early 6-3 lead.
UCD were clearly undaunted in the early stages, taking a 10-3 lead at the midway point of the first. Pete Madsen responded with three for Killester.
Michael Higgins continued UCD’s impressive long-range shooting with another three as UCD took an unlikely 14-6 lead. Michael Westbrooks hit back with two consecutive scores for Killester to reduce the gap to four and John Behan also struck to leave UCD with a 17-15 lead at the end of the first.
Killester came out firing in the second, Jermaine Turner giving his side a three-point lead from outside.
Barry Glover made sure UCD stayed in touch with two impressive scores. Mark Keenan’s side began to disrupt the UCD attack, as Ryan’s charges began to miss shots they had been making with ease in the first quarter.
It was looking ominous for UCD, who despite their impressive start, fell behind by 10 with two and a half minutes remaining. Conor Meany tried to rally his side, but it was Killester who were looking worthy of their favourites’ tag with a 35-28 half-time lead.
Dan James began the second half in ideal fashion for UCD to bring the students within five. Killester are not treble champions for nothing, however, and responded as champions do, using their strength under the boards to fashion a 41-32 lead. They were on course to retain their title, unless Ryan could transform the fortunes of his side.
Crowder hit back-to-back three pointers for UCD as Ryan’s timeout talk began to pay dividends.
UCD were still in with a shout heading into the final quarter, trailing 52-42.
The final quarter will go down in Irish basketball folklore as one of the most dramatic ever. UCD slowly got to within range thanks to some excellent shooting from Crowder, Conor Meany, and Dan James.
Killester had Isaac Westbrooks fouled out and conceded their quota of team fouls. This allowed UCD to go to the line twice in a row and hand UCD the most incredible three-point lead.
Killester tried a shot on the buzzer, but it was to be UCD Marian’s day.
MEN’S SUPERLEAGUE NATIONAL CUP FINAL: 11890 Killester 57 (35) (J Turner 12, P Kelly 10, P Madsen 9) UCD Marian 60 (28) (J Crowder 17, C Meany 12, N Baynes 10). MVP: James Crowder (UCD Marian)