Jul 08 2024

Ireland advance to top eight at FIBA U20 Women's Youth EuroBasket

Ireland have advanced to the second group stage at the FIBA U20 Women's Youth EuroBasket, finishing second in Group 'A' behind the Czech Republic with two wins from three games. They will now face Group B table toppers Ukraine and Iceland, who they recently defeated at the Nordic Championship, in the top eight. The top two teams in the second group phase will advance to the semi-final stages.

A gruelling three days of basketball in Bulgaria saw Ireland overcome Slovakia 91-61 and Switzerland 78-71 to set up a winner takes top spot meeting against a highly regarded Czech Republic team on Monday afternoon. It wasn't to be for Karl Kilbride's outfit, who were defeated 80-43, but they will now have their first rest day to focus on recovery before beginning the next phase of the competition. 

There have been a series of impressive performers in the opening three games, starting with Gandy Malou-Mamel - who is averaging a double-double, 11.7 points and 11.3 reboudns per game. Lucy Coogan, Grace Prenter and Sarah Hickey are also all above double-digits in scoring for the tournament. Malou-Mamel and Michelle Ugwah are combining for 4 blocks per game, while all members of the roster have seen time on the court.  

Gandy Malou-Mamel proved to be decisive in securing Ireland’s opening game win against Slovakia, who led from the front foot with a game-high efficiency rating of 30, consisting of 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

Ireland quickly raced into the lead, keeping the lead for the rest of the game,  with Sarah Hickey scoring the first points, and entering the second quarter with a 25-10 advantage. Karl Kilbride’s side continued to build on their advantage, leading to a convincing 91-61 win against the Slovakian side.

Scoring was well-spread out throughout the game, with contributions from Sarah Hickey (11), Niamh Tolan (16), Lucy Coogan (12), Michelle Ugwah (12), Grace Prenter (10), and game leader Gandy Malou-Mamel (17).

Ireland headed into the second game in high spirits , quickly commanding an early 21-16 lead in the first quarter, then further maintaining their advantage in the second quarter, outscoring Switzerland 18-16, heading into the break with a 39-32 advantage. 

Switzerland fought back in the third quarter, reducing the deficit to fifteen against Ireland’s fourteen, Ireland outscored Switzerland by one point in the final quarter to secure the 78-71 win against the Swiss. Once again Gandy Malou-Mamel played a major role in the Ireland, giving her side 16 rebounds and two blocks. Lucy Coogan finished top scorer with 23 points. 

An early surge from the Czech Republic in game three saw them take a commanding 29-12 lead following the first quarter. Ireland used a big rotation thereafter getting some valuable minutes into a number of players while giving others, such as Sarah Hickey, Niamh Tolan, Grace Prenter and Lucy Coogan a more manageable workload with the upcoming last eight ties in mind. Hickey in particular wouldn't return after checking out in the first. 

The score didn't fully reflect the effort on the floor from Ireland, who were playing their third intense game in as many days. Katie O'Sullivan got her first points of the tournament from the free-throw stripe and an even spread of scoring saw four of the five starters finish with a similar total off a similar number of shots. Both sides worked down the shot clock with each possession in the second period, with the game well over at 52-27 at the half, no doubt working on some changes for the days ahead. 

Mission accomplished at the buzzer for Ireland - we advance to the top eight at the FIBA U20 Women's Youth EuroBasket. With a rest day on Tuesday, Ireland will return to the court on Wednesday with fresh impetus for the coming games against Ukraine and Iceland.