Saints withstand late pressure to go level with Moycullen in standings

Liam Ashton

DCU's superiority on the boards was the key to their win over Moycullen. Credit: Darragh Culhane

DCU Saints 77
Moycullen 74
Basketball Ireland Men’s Super League

DCU Saints held off a late run from Moycullen to seal a win in the Basketball Ireland Men’s Super League on Saturday night, February 4th.

A 15-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter appeared to be enough to hold off the Galway visitors, but an 11-point unanswered run lead by big men Philip Lawrence-Ricks and Paul Freeman put the side within four points.

It was evident that Latvian Martins Provizors would be an influential player in the game doing seemingly everything for Saints in the first quarter both rebounding on the defensive end and scoring ten points.

American Ricks displayed his offensive awareness by rebounding his own missed shots to score on a handful of occasions. He also displayed how dangerous he can be on the fast break by splitting defenders to lay it in off the backboard.

Late in the first quarter Ricks had the travelling support on their feet and the home fans in awe after scoring a put-back dunk which caused the basket to need readjusting.

With Provizors getting in foul trouble early it was the younger Saints players Tariq Gueballi and Dan Heaney who made an impact on the game.

The three-pointer was not as effective for Moycullen in the second quarter as it was in the first so it was the mid range shooting of Patrick Lyons that kept his side in touch.

DCU continued what was working on offence by driving at the basket and drawing fouls. The Saints were converting free throws to keep them ahead, something that Moycullen were struggling with going into the half down 41-38.

Saints started the second half with conviction scoring eight unanswered points and not allowing the visitors to score for nearly four minutes.

Rory Gilson ended the scoring drought, getting a clear look at the basket after swift ball movement. Arkadijs Makarenko responded with back-to-back three-pointers to inhibit Moycullen’s chances of getting back into the game.

Moycullen were not doing damage on the scoreboard and their persistence on offence to continually drive to the basket was putting the Latvian pair Makarenko and Provizors in foul trouble.

Provizors continued to punish Moycullen’s lack of scoring by drilling a three-pointer at the end of the quarter leaving Moycullen with huge task ahead of them going into the last quarter down 65-50.

Moycullen coach John Cunningham’s message to the team at this point was to continue drawing fouls to take the Saints’ key men out of the game:

“We kind of felt they were in foul trouble so we didn’t feel the game was gone, at that point it was keep playing, keep attacking the basket and get good looks which we did,” said Cunningham.

Moycullen went on a run of their own topping that of their adversaries in the previous quarter scoring 11 unanswered points lead by Ricks and Freeman.

Saints coach Joey Boylan said the message to the players at the end of the third was to keep doing what they had been doing which he says that didn’t get through.

He also praised the younger players for their composure and singled them out as integral factors in closing out the game.

“The key player was Kevin O’Hanlon he kind of controlled things but then Dan Heaney came in and did a great job he got a real big basket after just missing one,” said Boylan.

The Saints carelessly gave Moycullen an opportunity to close the deficit by stepping over the line of the key before the free throw had gone in, giving possession back to the Galway side.

Cunningham commented on how his side’s free throw shooting was ultimately their downfall.

“At the end of the day we didn’t hit free throws. It has been a problem all season.”

“We get them in foul trouble, we put their best players on the bench and we don’t score the free throws to punish them.”

Defensive pressure was kept on by DCU to ensure they maintained their now three-point-lead by stepping up on the ball carriers.

This tactic seemed to pay off as O’Hanlon tipped the ball away from Ricks, but the American regained control and brushed through DCU’s defence for his second dunk of the game, closing the game to a single point lead.
Saints were put in further trouble with their big men Makarenko and Provizors both fouling out and giving Heaney and Gueballi the chance to close the game out.

Heaney and O’Hanlon both scored crucial baskets under pressure from both Moycullen’s defence and the importance of the scores.

The climax of the game came with just under 30 seconds to go and Dylan Cunningham of Moycullen having the opportunity to score a three-pointer to force over-time.

Saints did not allow Moycullen get a clean shot off and closed the game out winning 77-74.

Liam Ashton
Image credit: Darragh Culhane