Pyrobel Killester drove home to an extremely memorable 82-59 point victory over Singleton SuperValu Brunell at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght this evening, to scoop the Hula Hoops Paudie O’Connor National Cup title and end a 15-year drought since their last win.
American pair Adella Randel El and Christa Reed combined for a whopping 43 points in a superb display for the north Dubliners, while co-captain Rebecca Nagle chipped in 12 points from behind the three-point line.
“We've waited for this for a long time,” said Nagle afterwards. “Our last appearance in a final was in 2016 and it's been in the back of our heads ever since. We knew we could do it. Credit to Brunell, they were amazing but I'm so proud of the girls.”
Brunell came into the game as underdogs but also boasting the best three-point accuracy in the Super League. They needed at least a 35% return to be in with a shout and Treyanna Clay held up her end with 4/11 in the first half. Tim O’Halloran’s side had a decent start, with Sinead O’Reilly having an immediate impact on the boards while Laura Morrissey lurked with intent on the perimeter. American Christa Reed - who finished the game with 23 points and the MVP ball – was on hand to deliver early for Killester at the other end, making her first four baskets to keep them in touch. Rebecca Nagle hit a go-ahead triple that ignited Killester’s offence though and a 10-0 run took them all the way to the end of the first quarter to lead, 24-14.
A switch up in the second quarter for Brunell saw talismanic guard, Danielle O’Leary back on the floor. The guard had limped out of her side’s unexpected semi-final win against DCU Mercy with an ankle injury, but somehow was back and ready for action today, and she made her presence felt almost immediately as Brunell started to eat into the deficit. Half of Killester’s first quarter tally was from threes, but their accuracy collapsed to 1/6 in the second period. That opened the door for Brunell and their work rate was paying dividends, with scores raining in and Alex Macheta came off the bench and picked the pocket of Adella Randle El - her layup making it a one score game. The lead changed hands just seconds before the break. Aryn McClure had put in a monster half with a double-double for points and rebounds as well as six assists and two blocks. Killester slipped into foul trouble and it was the American who used the free-throw line to brighten up Brunell’s team talk as the Cork outfit led 38-37 going in at the half.
There was a sense that Killester had an extra gear though and as the third quarter got underway, it certainly ramped up a notched. They retook the lead early in the third quarter, with Aisling McCann showing superb awareness in transition while Adella Randle El drove through and racked up nine points in the period. Brunell missed an open three from the top of the key and the punishment was severe – Reed went down the other end for an easy layup before Randle El forged a double-digit lead. Ella McCloskey got busy on the offensive boards and made her free throws, while sharpshooter Michelle Clarke made her steal count with the layup and with Brunell visibly tiring, Killester’s tough defence began to win out and they led 60-44 going into the last.
An 8-0 run got Brunell’s bodhráns beating early in the fourth quarter as Clay opened with a layup before Morrissey and Greta Tamasanskaite knocked down three-pointers. The volume of the Cork faithful was back at its customary levels, before Nagle prompted a storm of orange with seven minutes left. Her corner three snapped Brunell’s run and gave Killester the confidence to see out the game and they did so in style, 82-59, with Nagle adding: “we'll definitely celebrate this one!”
Head coach Karl Kilbride added: “We said before the game that defence was going to be the difference between winning and losing. We really knuckled down in the third quarter. We held them to six points and when we get stops it lets us get out and run and shoot threes in transition. It's very hard to describe how I feel at the moment.”