Mar 28 2024

Ireland U16 men finish as runners-up in Four Nations after 75-59 loss to England

Despite a very promising start, Ireland men suffered a 75-59 defeat at the hands of England in Wednesday night’s Under 16 Four Nations title decider in the National Basketball Arena, consequently surrendering the crown they won last season.

Ireland had followed up their impressive 95-46 triumph over Wales in their opening match of the campaign on Tuesday with an 84-47 win over Scotland on Wednesday morning to help set up a title showdown with England that night.

It was England who struck first blood in this tournament decider courtesy the game’s top scorer Emmanuel Ahamefule (21 points) and Kelvin Clement Aigbogun who propelled the visitors 4-0 in front before Ireland’s most prolific player on the night, Lorcan Bailey-Morrow sparked a resurgence with a sublime effort from the three-point line.

A ten-point run that featured a bucket from Joaquin Patrick Pahinag and scores from the free-throw and three-point line by Kieran Quinn, helped the hosts take a firm grip on this tie.

But England were not about to wilt in the face of this promising start and vocal support for the Irish boys despite Declan Ehigie igniting the second quarter with a huge three that pushed Ireland’s advantage out to 13.

Buckets from the floor by Ziah Francis, captain, Ike Davids and Adrian Mordi, combined with the composure of Myles Barry from the free-throw line, saw England battle all the way back on to level terms (26-26) by the half-time recess as Ireland managed just seven points in the second quarter.

The hosts did hit the ground running in the second half with Morrow and Adam McCarthy putting up scores only to see those buckets cancelled out by Ahamefule and Aigbogun before Barry again struck from the line to nudge the visitors in front.

Obinna Ekufu and Aigbogun delivered down the lane to help propel England five points in front before Morrow drained a three for Ireland only to see Francis do the same at the other end of the floor seconds later.

Ireland were struggling to break out on transition and get the looks, but a timely Pahinag layup with 16 seconds remaining in the third reduced Ireland’s arrears to seven heading into the fourth.

Yet the fouls continued to mount for Paul Kelleher’s side in the final quarter and Ahamefule drained three from the free-throw line before taking to the air to gather and sink another bucket from the backboard as the gap widened to 14.

Ireland sustained the fight with baskets from Pahinag, Morrow and Oisin Tóibin, but with 10 points separating the two sides and five minutes remaining, Ireland really needed to start making their turnovers count.

Instead, a big three and dunk by Ekufu, together with a comfortable finish on the counter by Ahamefule, only served to tighten England’s hold on this tie.

Morrow maintained his composure to make a basket and draw the foul, but England were home and hosed by that stage with Ireland having to settle for the runners-up spot this year.

While pleased at seeing his side reach the title decider, Ireland head coach Paul Kelleher insists there are plenty of lessons to be learned by his players saying “It’s hard to replicate the pressure that England created over the last three quarters.

“I thought we were outstanding in building our level over the course of the two days, but we weren’t clinical enough offensively here, we weren’t cutting.

“So it’s now about, can we get more of these games? can we learn how to play against that pressure?, and if we can do that, I think we’ve shown that we can play.

“I said three things to the boys. One was appreciate the fact that we were in a final, understand what we’ve just been through and improve from what we’ve just been through” he said.

Quarter Scores: Q1: 19-9, Q2: 26-26, Q3: 39-46, Q4: 59-75 

Ireland Men:

Kieran Quinn, Adam McCarthy (Capt), Declan Ehigie, Oisin Tóibin, Fryderyk Klimas, Sean Patterson, Denis Brusevics, Nathan Gbinigie, Harry Lynch, Joaquin Patrick Pahinag, Mark Burns, Lorcan Bailey-Morrow.

Head Coach:  Paul Kelleher

Top Scorers: Lorcan Bailey-Morrow (18), Kieran Quinn (12), Joaquin Patrick Pahinag (8)

England Men:

Emmanuel Ahamefule, Adrian Mordi, Myles Barry, Kelvin Clement Aigbogun, Tristan Curran, Jamaul McAllister, Andrew Nwokolo, Jakub Bobkowski, Obinna Ekufu, Ziah Francis, Oliver Bishop, Ike Davids (Capt).

Head Coach: Alexis Lewis

Top Scorers: Emmanuel Ahamefule (21), Obinna Ekufu (14), Myles Barry (11), Ziah Francis (9).