University of Galway Maree 74-69 DBS Éanna
Jarett Haines picked the perfect night to score a new season-high of 35 as University of Galway Maree made history with a 74-69 win over Eanna to claim their first InsureMyHouse.ie Pat Duffy Cup Final at the National Basketball Arena.
They had to fend off a dicey second quarter and produce some big defensive stops at times, but were deserved winners and become the first team from Galway to win the National Cup, in their maiden final appearance.
If the semi-final had a boisterous party atmosphere, the showpiece event was even better between two sides who both lost league fixtures the previous weekend. Any concerns about how they’d start in this matchup were quickly settled.
Maree got off to the perfect start, armed with a 9-0 run. Stephen Commins’ triple and some early success for Zvonimir Cutuk told the story, as Charlie Crowley’s side started stronger.
Eanna were scoreless in the first four minutes despite creating some good shooting looks, aware their slump wouldn’t last much longer.
Neil Lynch drilled a corner three and blocked a shot soon afterwards, with Kristijan Andabaka scoring a transition layup.
Lynch was often at the forefront of Eanna’s attacking moves so it wasn’t surprising to see him tee up teammates with assists before both he and Jarett Haines’ shots agonisingly rattled in-and-out.
Rodrigo Gomez and Marko Tomic traded triples, before Joshua Wilson scored an easy basket after a backdoor cut pass into him by Stefan Desnica.
Tomic, who hadn’t featured since early November, got the crowd increasingly rowdy as he sunk another deep-range shot, while Wilson soon joined him with a basket from long-distance.
Haines made both free throws after being fouled, while Gomez and Sean Jenkins traded baskets before Romonn Nelson almost sunk a buzzer-beater in what was a pulsating end to the first quarter.
Mics in the team huddle picked up some clear instructions from Eanna’s coaching staff: maintain your intensity and Maree would tire.
Closing out on Gomez and defending Cutuk better was easier said than done, mind. Cathal Finn drove into the area and kept his composure through traffic to score, in what was a seven-point surge for Galway out of the break.
Eoin Rockall fought for possession off a loose ball, while Burke stood strong defensively to thwart a promising attack too and Gomez made an important interception.
For all of Maree’s off-ball efforts, Éanna would soon punish them. After a three-minute scoreless run, Scott Kinaman hit a three to finish a good possession packed with ball movement.
Cutuk’s good scoring start continued as the Croatian was rewarded for his anticipation, while the same can be said for Wilson – abruptly earning free throws with aggression before hitting a corner three.
Mark Reynolds was left bloodied and unable to continue with a reported broken nose following an accidental clash with Gomez, an unwelcome blow for Éanna.
Cutuk and a Gomez putback dunk were the pick of Maree’s shots to finish the first-half, but they were guilty of starting a little slow after the interval.
Éanna’s confidence grew as Andabaka assisted on successive threes, while Cutuk had a heavily contested layup attempt swatted away shortly afterwards.
Just as the commentators were wondering where the Galway response would come from, Haines made himself heard.
Rockall’s timely steal was finished emphatically on his alley-oop pass to Gomez, as the guard’s assertiveness was paying dividends.
Match officials should’ve awarded him an and-one play after watching him score through heavy contact, before draining a triple to give them a 45-44 lead.
Back-and-forth the two sides went, and this was finely poised heading into the final ten minutes.
Cutuk levelled the score at 53-53 after knocking down a three, then added another two with a mid-range jumper. Jenkins replied on the next possession, before Haines’ well-timed heave rattled out once again.
The Maree fans couldn’t believe Éanna were allowed to continue unpunished after a clear travel wasn’t called mid-possession, moments before Jenkins put them back in the lead.
Haines made them quickly forget that with another mid-range jumpshot, then drained a contested three over Wilson’s outstretched arm on the next possession too.
His scoring burst continued despite missing a heat check three, while Cutuk and Rockall – the latter penalised for an overzealous challenge – were defensively tenacious near the basket.
Haines drew attention and teed up John Burke for two, before a Gomez steal and more slick ball movement saw Burke hit a corner three – Maree now had a six-point advantage to defend.
67-61 the score, as Eanna head coach Darren McGovern reassured his players there was plenty of time to make up the ground. Not much, after Wilson inadvertently stepped out of bounds.
Shortly afterwards, he charged forward in transition from a sudden turnover and had his next shot blocked by Haines – who raced away to score a layup.
Gomez secured a big rebound before Desnica converted a putback finish, but the encounter was iced by that man Haines: another deep three. He was named the Finals MVP after a matchwinning display.
Scorers for University of Galway Maree: Jarett Haines 35, Zvonimir Cutuk 15, Rodrigo Gomez 13, John Burke 5, Stephen Commins 3, Cathal Finn 2, Eoin Rockall 1.
Scorers for DBS Éanna: Sean Jenkins 14, Marko Tomic 14, Kristijan Andabaka 11, Joshua Wilson 11, Stefan Desnica 8, Scott Kinevane 3, Alex Dolenko 3, Neil Lynch 3, Mark Reynolds 2.
University of Galway Maree: Stephen Commins, Eoin Rockall, Rodrigo Gomez, Jarett Haines, Zvonmir Cutuk, Cathal Finn, Ben Burke, Zach Light, Matthew Sweeney, John Burke, Malik Thiam, Paul Freeman.
Top scorers: Jarett Haines (35), Zvonimir Cutuk (15), Rodrigo Gomez (13), John Burke (5), Stephen Commins (3).
DBS Éanna: Neil Lynch, Joshua Wilson, Mark Reynolds, Stefan Desnica, Kristijan Andabaka, Hillary Netsiyanwa, Romonn Nelson, Scott Kinevane, Sean Jenkins, Alex Dolenko, Conor Dikcius, Joshua Wilson, Marko Tomic.
Top scorers: Sean Jenkins (14), Marko Tomic (14), Kristijan Andabaka (11), Joshua Wilson (11), Stefan Desnica (8).