Andersonstown Tigers 58
LYIT men’s basketball club were busy last weekend, making trips to Belfast on Saturday and Monday for two very close games in the Ulster Premier League. On Saturday they took on a tough team from Andersonstown, in front of a large home crowd, and with only seven players available for the game, they would need a big effort.
The home side started much sharper racing out into an early lead 9-2 through strong post moves from 6’7 center A. Cesonis, combined with good shooting from G. Ryan. It took LYIT a few minutes to find any sort of rhythm, before Mark Cannon scored six points in succession to keep his side within distance. However, Tigers led 21-12 after the first quarter, giving the visitors a tough ask so early in the game.
A much-improved defensive effort from LYIT saw them hold their opponents scoreless for the first five minutes of the quarter. Conor Boyle was driving hard to the basket and scoring, while Ger Murray was dominating the rebounds on both ends of the court. Moe Ismail entered the game and played tough defense and really pushed the ball. Just as they had reduced the gap, Tigers made another run towards the end of the half through two three-pointers from S. Fox to maintain their lead 32-23 at half-time.
The Belfast side started strong again in the third through their big center and led 38-25, the largest of the game with seven minutes remaining in the third. LYIT called a timeout and needed to act fast or the game would be past them. Erikas Dragunas entered the game and almost immediately provided a spark and a lifeline for LYIT when he scored back-to-back three point shots. Shaun Wogan led the fast break with a score, before Steve Cannon knocked down a three pointer of his own to bring his side back within 3 points at the end of the third quarter 46-43, with all to play for.
The game went score for score for the first few minutes of the last period, with Boyle and Murray teaming up well for LYIT, and R Saliamonis and M. Mulholland scoring for Tigers. The aforementioned Steve Cannon scored back-to-back three pointers to send LYIT into a one-point lead. G. Ryan scored on a jumper to restore the lead for the Tigers with 40 seconds left (58-57). With about 30 seconds left in the game, a timeout was called and Tigers had the ball so LYIT needed a steal and a basket if they were to win this one. They applied a full court trap and Mark Cannon stole the ball and scored almost immediately giving his team a one-point lead. A solid defensive effort by LYIT saw them hold on and win by the slightest of margins 59-58. It was a very strong team performance that was sparked by the hot shooting from Dragunas.
LYIT: M Cannon (13pts), S. Cannon (13), C Boyle (9), G Murray (14), S Wogan (4), M Ismail, E Dragunas (6).
Tigers: N Meehan (2), L Dawson, I Slaukivicius (4), S. Fox (11), G Ryan (13), P Hawes, R Saliamonis (2), A Cesonis (21), M Mulholland (3), R Craig (2).
Belfast Tropics 74
In the second of last week’s games in Belfast, LYIT took on Tropics and yet again they only had seven players available for the game. When these clubs met in Letterkenny earlier in the season, Tropics came away with a one-point win so it was always going to be a close battle between the two, and it was.
Both teams started well on offense. Mike Calo for Tropics had the hot shooting hand for most of this game and he hit three shots from close range, along with two from distance in the first quarter alone to notch 12 first quarter points. Team captain Mark Cannon replied with eight points from the field, while rookie Shaun Wogan scored on numerous drives and free throws on his way to a tremendous all round game. Tropics held a slight lead 21-20 after the first quarter.
Conor Boyle started the second quarter well leading the break and finding his open team mates with lovely passes. Tropics Polish point guard A Celms was getting to the basket with ease despite LYIT switching to a zone defense and hurt the away team with his drive and kick style play. Steve Cannon scored on a drive to pull LYIT level before the half, but Calo stepped up with a three pointer to maintain a slight advantage 39-36 at half-time.
The defence from both sides proved much tighter in the third quarter with both teams coming up with stops. Ger Murray found an open space twice in succession to convert inside, while Boyle knocked down a three pointer for LYIT allowing them to close the gap and eventually take the lead to end the quarter 52-51.
Both teams found a rhythm on offense again in the last quarter and went score for score for the first few minutes. Mark Cannon and Ger Murray continued to attack their opponents and scored off two drives apiece. This was quickly cancelled out by Calo who hit four shots in a row, one being a turnaround fadaway shot from the wing with two defenders on him – a great score! LYIT then held a slight lead of seven points with four minutes left and tiredness began to become evident for the first time as they turned the ball over on a couple of occasions allowing Tropics right back into the game. After a three pointer from Steve Cannon, Calo calmly knocked down two free throws to give his team a four-point lead, before Ger Murray scored a buzzer three for LYIT. Tropics held on and edged this one 74-73.
LYIT: M Cannon (19pts), S Cannon (7), C Boyle (15), G Murray (9), S Wogan (23), M Ismail, E Dragunas (6).
Tropics: D Cullen, C Reilwett (5), L Milvenna (3), A Celms (17), M Calo (29), S Tudhoy, D Douwie (11), C Rhys (9).