Feb 21 2024

St. Finian’s second-half resurgence unhinges Cross & Passion in All-Ireland Under 16B Boys Schools League Final

A huge third-quarter performance saw St. Finian’s, Swords turn this All-Ireland Under 16B Boys Schools League Final on its head, as they converted a 10-point half-time deficit into a 68-56 victory over Cross and Passion, Kilcullen in the National Basketball Arena on Wednesday.

Captain Richard McKay amassed an impressive 30 points for the Dubliners in this decider, emerging the game’s top scorer and MVP.

Big three-pointers at both sides of the court brought the curtain up on this title match as Senan Gallagher’s effort for Cross and Passion was cancelled out by that of McKay.

The Swords side continued on to open up a 7-3 lead following buckets from Brandon Dembo and McKay, but it was their Kilcullen opponents who finished the quarter the stronger.

Gallagher increased his tally to nine, while Tom Ryan landed a three and deuce in quick succession to leave Cross and Passion six points up heading into the second period.

They drew first blood upon the resumption through Gallagher, who would emerge their most prolific scorer on 19, although points from McKay and Adam Serrano kept Finian’s well in the game.

But again, Cross and Passion put together a strong finish to the quarter as Conor Cremin executed from beyond the arc before Turlough Donnelly produced a fine three-point play at the death to help push their side’s advantage out to 10 by the half-time buzzer.

St. Finian’s did up their intensity in the third while Cross and Passion were guilty, at times, of not protecting the ball.

That resulted in a 10-point run for the Dubliners that hauled them right back on to level terms, Richard and David McKay, Phong Nguyen and Dembo delivering the scores.

That surge was arrested by a Tom Ryan bucket that nudged Cross and Passion back in front, but a huge three-point buzzer-beater by captain McKay had both the St Finian’s players and their faithful up out of their seats, as the Swords side carried a 42-39 lead into final quarter.

St Finian’s smelled blood, and when both Richard and David McKay struck from downtown, they went ten points clear of their Kildare opponents who were struggling to find answers.

Indeed, Cross and Passion, at this stage, were just not getting enough of a return from the floor or the free-throw line to really impact the scoreboard, and St Finian’s ran out comfortable winners in the end.

Delighted with his side’s superb comeback, St. Finian’s head coach, David Conway said “We maybe got some of the match-ups wrong at the start, but when we changed them, we were able to shut down their offence.

“This title is massive for the school. A few of those lads came into the school two years ago and we were ‘D’ basketball and they really have driven us on.

“Hopefully this will bring on the next crop of students coming to the school, because we’re going to be playing ‘A’ basketball now and we really need good players coming to our school to play for us, and we will teach them” he said.

Quarter Scores: Q1: 10-16, Q2: 20-30, Q3: 42-39, Q4: 68-56

St. Finian’s:

Richard McKay (Capt), David McKay, Phong Nguyen, Brandon Dembo, Hans Manicat, Adam Serrano, Fahad Sulaimon, Rejus Zuzevick, Teejay Obireke, Zachary Francisco, Guillem Llimona, Sean Staunton.

Head Coach:  David Conway

Top Scorers: Richard McKay (30), David McKay (17), Brandon Dembo (8).

Cross & Passion, Kilcullen:

Fionn O’Brien, Daniel Young, Daniel Morgan, Conor Cremin, Jack Cronin, Senan Gallagher, Tom Ryan, Turlough Donnelly (Capt), Sam Devenney, Joshua Delaney, Myles MacNamara, Luke Duffy.

Head Coach: Aoife O’Malley

Top Scorers: Senan Gallagher (19), Turlough Donnelly (14), Conor Cremin (7), Tom Ryan (7).

MVP:  Richard McKay (St. Finian’s)