St Mark’s emerge top from thrilling decider

THE All-Ireland Under 16 C Boys Schools Basketball League decider was a game you could not take your eyes off as St Mark’s Community School and Castletroy College of Limerick dished up an absolute thriller.

With the lead, and indeed the momentum, changing hands multiple times throughout in the National Basketball Arena yester-day, it was the Tallaght side who managed to hold on in the end to be crowned champions after a thrilling 54-50 win.

St Marks

Indeed it was MVP Dwayne Gonga who hit the crucial scores for the Dubliners in the end, as the pressure from Castletroy was on until the final buzzer, but two big closing scores from Gonga ensured victory for his side.

Castletroy were first off the mark with Rory Cronin bagging two quick baskets yet St Mark’s were not long getting off the mark, with a huge three pointer from Jaden Chako planting their first points and this was followed by a period of dominance that featured scores from Liam Osinuga and Divin Isamala.

Castletroy captain Aj Ryan Walsh though had a response, and as the clock began to tick down, hit two big scores.

Dwayne Gonga hit a bucket at the other end for St Mark’s only to see Castletroy reply with a deep two from Cóilín Keegan to see them trailing by just one point, 12-11 at the end of the first.

A thrilling and extremely fast paced second quarter followed, with Castletroy getting an 8-0 run early on thanks to super scores from Cronin and Keegan.

St Mark’s settled once more though thanks to Afeez Oluwa and two huge three pointers from Chako that left them trailing by just two by the break.

The intensity continued into the third quarter, with St Mark’s ready for battle. Osinuga picked up from where he left off in the second, with two quick baskets. Free throws at the other end for Ryan Mullane and Walsh kept their scoring ticking over and a basket from Cronin kept Castletroy’s noses just in front.

But again, St Mark’s had a response this time through Gonga and Isamala and soon the sides were level.

Momentum began to swing in favour of the Dubliners, with a huge three-pointer from Gonga edging them ahead by three points, and two more baskets from the same player saw the Tallaght school into a 41-34 point lead going into the last.

A huge fourth quarter followed, with Castletroy certainly not going down without a fight and by the midway point, it was back to a two-point game thanks to scores from Walsh, Keegan and Cronin.

With the game in the on a knife’s edge, St Mark’s had to dig deep and it was Gonga who broke the deadlock with a vital score, followed quickly by a super basket from Osinuga.

Castletroy were certainly not going away though, as Cronin continued to dazzle at the other end of the court, and with 57 seconds to go, it was back to a one-score game.

Step up Gonga though and two huge baskets saw his side back in control as they held out for a four-point victory.

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