Mar 27 2024

Gritty Ireland fall to 74-57 defeat to England in U16 Girls Four Nations Decider

Despite a tremendous defensive performance in the second half, Ireland women were unable to inflict enough damage down the other end of the court to prise England’s grip off their Under 16 Four Nations title decider, consequently losing out 74-57 in the National Basketball Arena on Wednesday evening.

A disappointing opening quarter, in which they fell 21 points adrift, left the hosts with a mountain to climb over the remainder of the tie, and, while they did confine England to a mere 19 points in the second half, they were still unable to make much of an in-road into the deficit.

An emphatic 132-23 demolition of Wales, followed by a comprehensive 96-47 triumph over Scotland on Tuesday, had set Ireland up for a title match showdown the following day against an equally impressive England outfit that had also carded huge wins against the same opposition.

A Kaitlyn Summers three-pointer one minute in had the home crowd in full voice early on, but it did not take England long to warm into this fixture.

Buckets from both sides of the arc by Tiarna Chambers-Desmond, together with scores from Neve Rugette and Holly Ensoll helped the visitors into a 16-5 advantage by the midway point in the quarter.

Ireland captain, Aoibheann Donnelly, who finished up with a haul of 15 points, did arrest that run with a nice three, but Ireland were guilty of not protecting the ball sufficiently at times and England’s Athena Thompson proved well capable of making the steal.

A three-point play by Chloe Vella took her first-quarter tally to nine and pushed England’s lead out to 21, heading into the second.

The hosts, however, re-emerged with intent and put together an eight-point run as Abbie Lyons drained two free throws which were followed up with two baskets from Katie Behan.

England got the scoreboard ticking again with an Ensoll deuce before captain, Irene Oboavwoduo landed a three on her way to a game-high 20 points, but Ireland kept battling away.

Lyons and Rugette struck threes at either end of the court within seconds of each other, but it was England who finished the half that bit stronger as scores from Kosisochi Anyanwu, Vella and Rugette saw them take a 26-point cushion into the third.

Ireland opened the second half with two converted free throws from Summers, whose desire and fight for the ball under her own board was inspirational.

Madelyn Hartigan and Lyons combined for 16 rebounds, as Ireland produced a much improved defensive display in the third that kept England scoreless for almost six minutes after the break.

But while they were doing a far better job of protecting their own board, they were not getting enough of a return at the other end of the court to really threaten England’s grip on this decider.

Donnelly did serve up a deuce and big three in quick succession, but while England were limited to a mere nine points in the third, Ireland were able to better that tally by only four in the same period.

Some lovely layups by Donnelly early in the fourth were answered by free-throws from Ensoll and Desmond as the visitors continued to keep Ireland at arm’s length.

But there was no let-up in Ireland’s fight, and a delightful three by Eabha Booth was later followed with an eight-point run for the hosts down the stretch, which, if nothing else, saw them take a second quarter, if not the game itself.

“We have a very inexperienced group in comparison to the English group” said Ireland head coach, Paul O’Brien. “They had five players who competed over at the Euros last year. The physicality was a little bit of shock to us at the start, but in the second half we only gave up 19 points, so the effort was incredible. They just never gave up.

"The crowd here was great. I think the girls enjoyed it and we’ll move on to our next training camp now. For us it’s a building process, so to get a good physical game like that against a very experienced and strong team is great” he said. 

Quarter Scores: Q1: 11-32, Q2: 29-55, Q3: 42-64, Q4: 57-74 

Ireland Women:

Aoibheann Donnelly (Capt.), Aimee O’Reilly, Eabha Booth, Francesca Kyamagero, Abbie Lyons, Cara Cormican, Katie Behan, Kaitlyn Summers, Caoimhe Timmons, Madelyn Hartigan, Muireann Teahan, Maebh Purtill.

Head Coach:  Paul O’Brien

Top Scorers: Aoibheann Donnelly (15), Abbie Lyons (10), Kaitlyn Summers (8), Katie Behan (6), Maebh Purtill (6). 

England Women:

Precious Godwin, Ophelia Larder-Lee, Neve Rugette, Kaiya Bateman, Athena Thompson, Anna Idiata Mendez, Irene Oboavwoduo (Capt.), Summer Wilson, Tiarna Chambers-Desmond, Chloe Vella, Holly Ensoll, Kosisochi Anyanwu.

Head Coach: Claire Harper