The under 18 Girls NW league final was held in Loreto Letterkenny last Thursday night where the many Blaze supporters were treated to a thrilling game of basketball.
The Blaze girls had performed well in their run up to this final and the gym was packed with supporters hoping for a repeat performance from the Under18 girls team.
As both sides settled into the game the Sligo Leahy twins combined for the opening score and Blaze responded immediately with a 3 pointer from Clodagh Brennan. Both defenses played well but had accumulated team fouls mid way through the opening quarter. The Blaze girls continued to work together with scores from Laura Kelly, Clodagh Brennan and Aine McGettigan finishing the first quarter leading 9 points to 5.
Blaze began the second quarter at a very fast pace as Aine McGettigan put away the ball quickly followed by another point from a free throw. Warriors responded with scores from Marina Leahy, S Crowne and G Murray. Good offensive work and baskets from Leanne Barrett, Laura Kelly and Clodagh Brennan along with consistent defensive rebounding by Laura Kelly ensured that Blaze were ahead at half time by 8 points.
The beginning of the third quarter saw two quick scores for Sligo which surprised the large Blaze support and made this an exciting quarter for all to watch. It was now basket for basket but Blaze became more successful with their shooting chances and scores came from Sinead Hession, Laura Kelly and Aine McGettigan. Clodagh Brennan’s change of speed on offense kept the Sligo defense off balance and with insightful shooting totaled 7 points in this quarter. The speedy sisters Aoife and Marina Leahy scored for Warriors to leave the third quarter at Letterkenny Blaze 33 Sligo Warriors 21.
As both sides came back on court for the remaining quarter of the NW final it was evident that each was hungry for success and neither side, nor the supporters, were prepared to give up. The teams traded baskets with Blaze scores from Clodagh Brennan and Sinead Hession. Aoife Leahy scored a 3 pointer for Warriors which was quickly followed by a fast break from A Danikovska, who passed the ball off to Marina Leahy. Sinead Coleman and Meghan Brennan were on court to steady the Blaze defence.
A basket from Aoife Leahy, Warriors, brought the lead down to only 4 points with 1:43 on the clock. Blaze needed to score as an individual basket came from Aine McGettigan after running the length of the court on a fast break. Sinead Hession followed by winning an offensive rebound and laid it off to Leanne Barrett who shot from the corner to secure an important score at a crucial time in this thrilling final. With 20 seconds on the clock, Blaze 40 Sligo Warriors 38, Sinead Hession rebounded and scored for her team. With only 4 seconds left and 4 points between the teams, Sligo Warriors were awarded 2 free throws and as the crowd silenced, both shots were scored. Warriors quickly pressed but Blaze counted down the seconds and took a well deserved victory winning the NW final by 42 points to 40.
MVP honours went to Clodagh Brennan Letterkenny Blaze team captain.