By John Coughlan
[team2]Singleton SuperValu Brunel[/team2][score2]68[/score2]
Singleton Supervalu Brunell are heading back to the Hula Hoops National Cup final for the second consecutive year after upsetting league leaders DCU Mercy 75-68 in a thrilling game at Neptune Stadium.
The first quarter was back and forth as both teams traded blows with Treyanna Clay and Meredith Burkhall scoring well at either end. Katie Walshe’s three-pointer with three minutes to go in the first quarter gave Brunell a slender one-point lead 13-12, but DCU appeared unfazed as Ashley Russell upped her influence on the game for Mercy as she scored nine points to go with her five early rebounds to see DCU into a 22-15 end of quarter lead.
An 8-2 run by Brunell got the second quarter off to a bright start as they reduced the lead to just one, 24-23.
The Cork side were dealt a blow though when point guard, Danielle O’Leary, had to leave the court due to injury and would not reappear for the remainder of the game. They regrouped well though and it was Treyanna Clay who took the reins of the game, and her hard work soon paid dividends as Brunell opened a six-point lead as the American reached the 23-point mark, matched by huge boards to hit an early double double. Mercy were struggling offensively scoring just twelve points in the second quarter, but a buzzer beater for Rachel Huijsdens narrowed the Brunell lead to just three (34-37) at half time.
The second half started with even more good work from Brunell as they extended their lead to eight through a Katie Walshe three-pointer.
DCU were looking frustrated as the Burnell defense was stifling them in the half court. A lovely fastbreak from Mercy reduced the deficit to just four as DCU were starting to limit the explosive Treyanna Clay.
Aryn McClure was doing huge work for Brunell on both ends of the floor and had taken the helm at the top of the key for the Cork side, while Laura Morrissey slipped into her role in style and made some big plays on the defensive end for her side.
Rachel Huijdsens meanwhile continued to be standout for DCU Mercy and with her now on a box-and-one with Clay, tried to limit the damage.
DCU found themselves level after a midrange jumper by Meredith Burkhall midway through the quarter, while Sarah Woods knocked down back to back jumpshots and scored a fastbreak layup in the closing stages of the quarter as Mercy took a one-point lead going into the final quarter.
As the fourth quarter got underway a Cup upset was looking increasingly likely as Laura Morrissey and Greta Tamsanskaite hit back-to-back threes to give Brunell a nine-point lead.
DCU were fighting to regain control but a huge Tamasanskaite three and a fifth foul on both Hannah Thornton and later, Meredith Burkhall, made things look doubtful for the league leaders as they trailed by 11 with less than five minutes remaining.
Brunell continued to push, with their standout stars, McClure, Clay and Walshe guiding the home and though McClure picked up an injury in the dying stages, the hard work was already done, and Brunell are on the way back to the Arena with a 68-75 win in the end.
Speaking after the game a relieved head coach, Tim O’Halloran was delighted with his team’s performance saying: “”What a game! I’m incredibly proud of the team, what a performance. We were dealt a big blow when Danielle went out in the second quarter, but the girls all regrouped so well and what a superb team performance that was. DCU Mercy are top of the league for a reason, but I thought our defensive intensity and our hunger and hustle was what won it for us. It’s incredible to think we are going back to another Cup final – that’s historic for the club, and we will savour every moment of it before knuckling down to get ready for Killester when the time comes.”
Top scorers DCU Mercy: Ashley Russell 21, Rachel Huijsdens 17, Sarah Woods 15
Top scorers Singleton SuperValu Brunell: Treyanna Clay 31, Katie Walshe 14, Greta Tamasanskaite 10
Megan Connolly (2), Sarah Woods (15), Ali Donohoe, Rachel Huijsdens (17), Maeve Phelan, Ashley Russell (21), Meredith Burkhall (9), Maeve O Seaghdha, Shauna O’Connor, Hannah Thornton (4), Aine McDonnell, Nicole Clancy
SINGLETON SUPERVALU BRUNELL:
Laura Morrissey (3), Aryn McClure (11), Andrea Moynihan, Danielle O’Leary, Greta Tamasanskaite (10), Aoife Dineen, Tara Lynch, Alex Macheta, Avril Braham, Katie Walshe (14), Treyanna Clay (31), Sinead O’Reilly (3)