The second biggest weekend on the Irish basketball calendar is here.
The Hula Hoops National Cup semifinals take place in Cork tomorrow. Here’s our megapreview of the women’s semifinals with four teams vying for the Paudie O’Connor Cup.
Ambassador UCC Glanmire v Pyrobel Killester (Saturday, January 11th, 2pm, Neptune Stadium)
The first of the Hula Hoops Women’s Paudie O’Connor Cup semi-finals is an interesting match up between Ambassador UCC Glanmire and Pyrobel Killester. Glanmire return to the semi-final stages after missing out last year, and will be hoping to make it all the way to the final. Killester return to the semi-finals for the first time in four years and will be hoping to carry the momentum of their recent league form in to see them over the line.
Here’s how the teams currently stand:
Ambassador UCC Glanmire
Current league position: 2nd (8-3)
Last 5 games: WWLWW
Points per game: 79 ppg (first in the country)
Points against per game: 67 ppg
Current league position: 5th (7-4)
Last 5 games: LLWWW
Points per game: 74 ppg
Points against per game: 70.6 ppg
Match ups to date this season:
November 24th , Mardyke Arena: Ambassador UCC Glanmire 95–75 Pyrobel Killester
The first half of this game came and went without Killester ever turning up. At half time, Glanmire held an incredible 35 point lead as they held Killester to just 17 points throughout the opening two quarters. A much improved second half helped the Dubliners, but ultimately the slow start killed off any chance of a good game. Shrita Parker caused huge problems for Killester as she had 28 points. Overall Glanmire dominated on the boards and inside, and were too much to handle on the day. Aine McKenna and Casey Grace were also key for Glanmire on the day, and despite good shooting from Aisling McCann and Rebecca Nagle, Glanmire’s staunch defense on the American threats of Adella Randle El and Christa Reed saw them home to a 20-point win in the end.
Christa Reed vs Shrita Parker
Reed: 17.7 ppg, 49% fg%, 2.2. steals, 6.2 rpg
Parker: 22.4ppg (2nd in country), 50.9% fg%, 1.9 steals, 5.3 rpg
Glanmire’s season took off when Shrita Parker found her feet in the Super League. The explosive guard came to life some four games into the year and has been unstoppable ever since. Capable of breaking down the defense she can both score and create openings for her teammates. At 22 points a game she is currently second in the country in scoring and is causing issues for every defense she faces. In the first matchup between the teams she dominated with 28 points. In that same matchup, Christa Reed scored 30 points but many of them were admittedly after the game was already lost. This is Reed’s second season with Killester and she has been in impressive form throughout the year coming up with timely plays over and over again. When Killester need a big play Reed provides the leadership. These two entertaining guards will be worth watching and either could swing the game in their team’s favour on Saturday afternoon.
Adella Randle El vs Tatum Neubert
Randle El: 18.9ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.6 assists
Neubert: 13 ppg, 7 rpg
Glanmire coach Mark Scannell knows all about Adella Randel El’s prowess as she played for Glanmire for a brief stint last year. The American is an impressive scorer and is currently 7th in the country in scoring and leads Karl Kilbride’s squad from the top of the key putting in a huge display against Liffey Celtics last weekend to see Killester home to victory. Whether familiarity will help Scannell limit Randel El’s influence or not remains to be seen, in the first meeting between the teams Neubert outscored Randle El 17 to 9 as she imposed her size to stop Randle El getting in the lane and driving to the basket. Neubert is having a good season so far for Glanmire and if she can win this matchup again on Saturday, it will give Glanmire a huge platform to reach the Cup final.
Aine McKenna vs Aisling McCann
McKenna: 13.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.4 apg, 42% 3fg%
McCann: 14.7ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.4 apg, 36.5% 3fg%
Two Irish international guards with vastly different levels of experience are both helping their teams this season. Aisling McCann has really come into her own this year and is providing consistent scoring for Karl Kilbride. McKenna is one of the most decorated players in the country with a trophy cabinet full of medals and is perhaps having one of her strongest seasons of recent years. Aine has proven herself on the biggest of stages multiple times and will always be there for the big shot, but the question is whether can McCann do the same for Killester this year?
Ambassador UCC Glanmire: Shrita Parker may be the rock star for Mark Scannell’s charges but she is surrounded by an extremely solid supporting cast. Aine McKenna is in peak form this season and has produced some terrific plays in recent games to ensure she will be one to watch. Despite being one of the most under rated players in the country, Casey Grace does huge work for Glanmire on both ends of the court. The youth and talent of Amy Dooley and Annaliese Murphy also help strengthen Mark Scannell’s squad up ensuring this will be a very interesting game indeed.
Pyrobel Killester: With Adella Randle El the December Player of the Month in the Women’s Super League, her impact for Killester has been massive since that game they lost to Glanmire. She proved last weekend against Liffey Celtics just how versatile she is, and Glanmire will need to have an action plan in place for her. Similarly Christa Reed can prove to be explosive in offense and surrounded by the sharpshooting of Aisling McCann, Rebecca Nagle and Michelle Clarke, if Killester get hot, Glanmire will need a big offensive game at the other end to combat it.
What to watch for?
- 3 point line - Killester both take and make the highest volume of three point shots in the country. They are capable of putting up huge scoring numbers but can also struggle when they go cold outside. With Mimi Clarke back in the fold, Killester have multiple three-point shooters, all of whom are capable of putting any defense under pressure. If Killester are hitting from the outside they could be tough to stop.
- Turnovers - Glanmire are the best in the country at minding the ball (10.7 turnovers per game). Killester on the other hand are 3rd worst with 14 turnovers per game. If Killester mind the ball though, they shoot a high enough volume of threes to break the game open.
- Killester’s interior defense - Glanmire lead the league in two-point field goal percentage. They find good shots and knock them down around the key. Can Killester limit these shots around the key or can Glanmire create the opportunities they want near the basket?
DCU Mercy vs Singleton Supervalu Brunell (Saturday, January 11th, 6pm, Neptune Stadium_
The second Hula Hoops Women’s National Cup semi final sees a showdown between 2018 National Cup champions, DCU Mercy, and 2019 National Cup runners-up, Singleton SuperValu Brunell. DCU will be gunning to get back to the final after missing out last year at the semi final stage when they lost out to eventual winners, Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celitcs.
Here’s how the teams currently stand:
Current league position: 1st (10-1)
Last 5 games: WLWWW
Points per game: 78.6 ppg
Points against per game: 58.7 ppg
Singleton Supervalu Brunell
Current league position: 8th (2-9)
Last 5 games: WLLLL
Points per game: 70.6 ppg
Points against per game: 77 ppg
Last in the country in rebounding with just 30 rebounds per game.
Match ups to date this season
November 10th, Dublin. DCU Mercy 79 – 69 Singleton Supervalu Brunell
In the one matchup between the teams so far this season, Mercy came out on top but by a relatively slim margin. The American combination of Meredith Burkhall and Ashley Russell combined for 48 points and 24 rebounds on the day and caused problems for the Leesiders. Treyanna Clay had one of her top performances of the year for Brunell with 28 points but she couldn’t get enough support from her teammates to be able to really trouble the league leaders. Mercy’s depth and strength on the bench proved to be key in this game, wit Mark Ingle able to call on a huge depth of international talent to keep his rotations sharp and fresh.
The Import Players
DCU have been confident in their American duo since the start of the season and it’s obvious why. Meredith Burkhall is the key for Mercy. She sits 5th in the league in scoring with 19.6 ppg and 6th in rebounding with 10.2 rebounds per game. Ashley Russell is no slouch beside her, averaging 15.4 points a game from the top of the key, while adding 4.8 assists (5th in the country). The duo work well together and compliment the Irish talent that surrounds them.
For Brunell, Treyanna Clay is 10th in the nation in scoring with 17.8ppg and she is forming a solid partnership with Lithuanian guard Greta Tamasauskaite who provides a serious outside threat and 15.7 points a game. For Brunell to have a realistic chance at winning this weekend they’ll also need a big performance from Aryn McClure. The American is averaging eight points a game but went scoreless last weekend away to Maree in 30 minutes of action. Brunell need scoring from everywhere and a big game for McClure could even the scales between the import players on both teams.
Rachel Huijdsens v Katie Walshe
Two of the country’s best young talents will go head to head in what should be a fascinating battle. Huijdsens has the ability to be the best player on the court on any night. She may only be averaging 6.5 points per game this season but on the biggest stages she is always capable of performing and has been one of the stand out players in many cup finals over the years. Katie Walshe has a huge burden on her shoulders for Brunell but the young star is more than capable of performing. She has been in explosive form for the Cork club in recent games, and Tim O’Halloran has relied on her for some big scores in their clashes. Her 11.6 points and over five rebounds a game will be crucial for Brunell.
Sarah Woods vs Danielle O’Leary
The two Irish Internationals are very different players but both are hugely influential to their teams. O’Leary thrives as a facilitator and when she gets the ball moving well, Brunell can look much more dynamic. Her ability to come up with a highlight play can get the crowd involved too, a good game for Danielle generally means Brunell are rolling. Woods meanwhile has been one of the most identifiable Irish players over the past decade. She can score from all over the court and is always putting pressure on the defense by being aggressive offensively. Limiting Woods can be the key to slowing DCU down. In their sole loss this season, Woods was held to four points on 2/14 shooting by a guard-heavy Maree. It’s easier said than done, but if O’Leary can have the greater impact between the two guards, Brunell will have a chance to win.
DCU Mercy: Stacked full of Irish talent from Sarah Woods to Hannah Thornton and Rachel Huijsdens to Maeve Phelan, DCU boast one of the most enviable rosters in the country. Their American duo, Meredith Burkhall and Ashley Russell have been the added X Factor for them since the season began, and despite Brunell matching up well with them across many positions, Mercy’s depth could prove to be crucial.
Singleton SuperValu Brunell: Danielle O’Leary and Katie Walshe are two of the key guards for Brunell and the Cork side will need two big games from them if they hope to return to the Arena for a Cup final. The inside presence of Linda O’Relly has been key for them in many games, but like Mercy, it will be the added impact of Treyanna Clay and Greta Tamasanskaite that could prove the difference. Keep an eye too on young guard, Alex Macheta.
What to watch for?
- Rebounds - Brunell are currently last in the country in rebounding. The loss of Amy Waters in particular has heavily impacted this. If Brunell can compete on the boards they can stay in the game, but Meredith Burkhall is sure to make life difficult.
- Outside shooting – In last year’s semi final loss to Liffey Celtics, Mercy shot only 11% from the outside. Mercy currently hit the fewest three pointers per game in the league this year too, whether Brunell can clog the middle and make Mercy shoot from the outside will be worth watching.
- Neptune Stadium – Despite not being their home venue, Neptune is close to a home game for Brunell. Last year they had a brilliant performance in the semi final in Neptune in front of a passionate Brunell crowd. They will need to rekindle that magic for a chance to return to the final this year.