Trinity College – 69
University College Cork – 50
Trinity College Women’s team took on a spirited University College Cork (UCC) side in a nail-biting contest. This game marked the semi-final of the National Basketball College Committee (NBCC) Division 1 league and the importance of the fixture was matched by the intensity of the performances. Trinity have been in flying form this season, as they went undefeated through the North Conference. The reigning Varsity champions had often enjoyed success in the cup competitions but it had been some time since they were in such a prominent position in the league and they were determined not to let it slip.
Having lost the jump initially, Trinity won back position and immediately scored a three-pointer through Sarah Kenny who doubled her three point tally in the next phase of play, giving Trinity an early six point lead. The home team seemed to swarm the visitors when it came to defence, with UCC struggling to recover any rebounds. Trinity’s period of dominance continued as Niamh Kenny sold a brilliant fake, ducked inside her marker and looped one over her shoulder to increase Trinity’s early lead
UCC got points on the board when Amy Dooley found herself in acres of space and then doubled down on that by scoring an easy lay up on a fast break through Alex Macheta. Trinity bounced back straight away with S. Kenny and N. Kenny scoring back to back baskets. But UCC were not going to go away that easily. Macheta scored a three-pointer after some nice interplay in the D and Trinity’s defence was caught lacking as she scored again on the fast break.
UCC conceded a foul and Katie Garton sank one, and when the second one rebounded, Trinity recovered well and got another basket. N. Kenny couldn’t be stopped on her way to the basket as she thundered through the key for another two points and Carolyn Binder got one of her own, as the game settled into more of a flow. UCC ended the quarter on top with Imogen O’Sullivan scoring a three-pointer and the visitors were unlucky not to score a half-court shot on the buzzer as it bounced off the rim, leaving it 19-12 to Trinity after the first quarter.
Trinity looked the stronger as the game resumed but they could have been accused of over playing the ball as they got into some early point scoring opportunities but let them go to waste. It all came together in time though. The first points of the quarter were the result of some brilliant play as Thornton seemed to vanish and reappear before zipping the ball out to Rachel Huijsdens who scored and S. Kenny followed that up with a three-pointer.
UCC managed to maintain a period of pressure and got score after score, making sure the lead never got away from them. However, the play was stopped halfway through the quarter when UCC’s Dooley went down in a heap and looked in serious pain. Despite the injury, the visiting side responded in the best way possible with Anna Lynch sinking a three-pointer to resume play, bringing it back to a two point game with only three minutes before half-time
Both sides exchanged free throws as the ebb and flow of the game became truly gripping.
Huijsdens scored again with some classic forward play as she posted up for an easy basket inside the key before collecting a rebound to score again. A three-pointer from UCC brought them back within two points with seconds remaining on the clock and some creative attacking play saw them draw level.But it was Trinity who went into half-time smiling as Thornton scored with less than a second to go giving Trinity a 31-29 lead.
Trinity started the second half brightly but UCC were determined to re-establish some control of the proceedings. Thornton scored for Trinity but the home side fell asleep at the wheel as a ball over the top caught them unawares and Macheta, who was having a great game, punished them for it. The visitors followed this up with a three-pointer before Trinity got back on the scoresheet through Binder who scored five points in a number of seconds to extend Trinity’s lead to seven points.
After a brief respite on the bench, Huijsdens returned to the court in emphatic form, claiming a defensive rebound at one bound before an offensive rebound at the other won Trinity a free with Binder sinking both shots. UCC had flashes of brilliance as they fought tooth and nail to get back into the game but they never felt like threatening the home side. As the clock ticked down towards the end of the penultimate quarter, Trinity began to dominate. Thornton scored and then Huijsdens scored twice in a row before claiming another defensive rebound, which allowed Trinity to see out the quarter with a 10 point lead, 53-43.
Trinity were unlucky not to score with their first phase with several shots coming off the rim before a jump ball gave UCC back possession but the ball fell harmlessly into the arms of Huijsdens again from a rebound. Seconds later, she was on the scoresheet again as a fast break gave Trinity all the time in the world to bank another two points. Binder got her own score before her opposite number, Whelan, paid them back in kind. However, Huijsdens could not be stopped and two brilliant passes from Thornton put her clean through for another two baskets.
After the Trinity onslaught, UCC’s Annaliese Murphy sank a three-pointer to try and breathe some life back into a team that were out on their feet. Now down a player, it was clear to see that the lack of substitutes was taking its toll on the team. A fantastic block from S. Kenny allowed Trinity to break and after creating some opportunities, S. Kenny, who had started the move, ended it with a score.
Team captain, Aisling O’Driscoll, came on with 3 minutes to play as the home team looked to see out the win. Huijsdens stopped a UCC fast break with a brilliant block before setting N. Kenny away to score. Yet again, Huijsdens’ work at the boards allowed Trinity some breathing room as the clock ticked down. Brilliant work from Rebecca Armstrong allowed the homeside to break, before O’Driscoll fed Huijsdens under the hoop for another two points. O’Driscoll became the scorer as she put up the last points of the game to see out the fixture 69-50.
Speaking to Trinity News after the match, O’Driscoll was delighted with her team’s performance. “We’re thrilled with the outcome of the game. I think we played well as a team and really showed how far we’ve come in gelling together this season. UCC are always a strong outfit so we knew we would have to come into this match with our A-game. We were missing a couple of key players tonight, so I really am proud of all the girls who stepped up to the plate tonight and put in strong performances to secure the win.”
Looking ahead to the All-Ireland league final, O’Driscoll seemed confident that this team were more than capable of sealing the victory. “We have DCU in the final who are always great competitors. We beat them in the Varsity final last year, however they beat us in our league match ups last season, so no doubt it will be a great game. We’re feeling positive about the progress we’ve made and where we’re at, so we’re looking forward to the final on Wednesday.”
The final of the NBCC Women’s Division 1 League is taking place at 3pm on Wednesday, March 11 in the Oblates Arena in Inchicore.