Ireland's U18 team got the better of Kosovo in their first classification game of the FIBA European Championship in Romania, edging out a 73-72 scoreline.
It was a hard-fought win for Paul Kelleher's side, who had to come from behind in the fourth to get the result, that wasn't sealed until the last throw of the game.
☘️ Big Q3 on the way.— Basketball Ireland (@BballIrl) August 5, 2022
A sharp shooting performance from Jack Kehoe so far with 𝟭𝟰 𝗽𝗼𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 to his name. 🧊
𝗘𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗳 𝗤𝟮
IRL 🇮🇪 39-46 🇽🇰 KOS
📺 https://t.co/gj2lMcs3iE@OldLeighlinBB | #GreenMeansGo 🔋 pic.twitter.com/8agvehSvf8
Kosovo got off to a positive start, as the game was in the balance throughout. Ireland showed encouraging signs early on, but their opponents had the answers. The Irish team showed great shooting skills from the likes of Tony Ezeonu and Jack Kehoe, who clocked up 14 points before the interval.
A sign of the times for Ireland was Aivaras Uosis going off with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Head coach Paul Kelleher said that the team is feeling the effects of the tournament. Having said that, the Garvey's Tralee Warriors man came back into the fray and ended up on 11 points.
The second half started similarly with both sides keeping the game in the balance. Tony Ezeonu and Brendan Douanla came to the fore with ten and eight rebounds collectively.
It was Kosovo who had the all-important lead, 62-54 going into the last quarter, but Kelleher’s men dug in and flipped the game around with Ruairí Cronin levelling things on 64 points each.
Ireland may have thought they had the game sealed late on. Brendan Douanla got the ball through the eye of a needle to team captain, Ruairí Cronin, who obliged in reaching the basket to give Ireland a five-point lead.
However, the opponents fought back and had an opportunity to win the game for themselves with seconds to go, but their shot hit the rim and that sealed the win for a jubilant Ireland side.
𝗪. 𝗡𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿 𝗶𝗻 𝗱𝗼𝘂𝗯𝘁. 😅— Basketball Ireland (@BballIrl) August 5, 2022
It’s a narrow victory for the U18 men’s team in their first #FIBAU18Europe classification game, coming down to the last throw of the game!
IRL 🇮🇪 73-72 🇽🇰 KOS #GreenMeansGo | @AwmContractsLtd ☘️ pic.twitter.com/gR3goBqHOc
Speaking after the game, head coach Paul Kelleher had this to say:
☘️ “𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐲𝐬 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐟𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡.”— Basketball Ireland (@BballIrl) August 5, 2022
🇮🇪 73-72 🇽🇰
Hear from U18 head coach @PaulTKelleher after the victory over Kosovo. Up next is the challenge of Norway tomorrow at 13:00. #GreenMeansGo | #FIBAU18Europe 🔋 pic.twitter.com/a6MtOdEZyT
Up next, it’s the challenge of Norway at the same time in the 9-12th classification game at 13:00 tomorrow.
Ruairí Cronin 17 points, Jack Kehoe 14 points, Tony Ezeonu 12 points
Ireland 73-72 Kosovo
Ireland v Norway, Saturday August 6th, Bucov, Romania, 13:00