The senior domestic season in Irish basketball climaxed on Saturday at the National Basketball Arena as five league finals were contested with Munster clubs reigning supreme.
The highlight matches, which were broadcast live, were the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague final between defending champions UL Huskies and DCU Mercy and the inaugural men’s National Champions Trophy final, which featured old rivals DCU Saints and UCC Demons.
In both games, the teams from Munster prevailed over their Dublin foes.
As with all great rivalries, no inch was given lightly between Saints and Demons and it was only at the very death that the men from Cork pulled away to win 73 to 62.
In a tight, physical and often heated encounter, the stalwarts of this Demons team over the past decade came up when it was needed most as Shane Coughlan - who was named the game’s MVP - and Niall O’Reilly both hit massive threes late to clinch it.
Saints will be kicking themselves all season as they led going into the half-time break 32 to 26 before going wayward in the third and fourth quarters.
Demons seemed to win the mind games, and when both teams were involved in a number of skirmishes, it was always Demons who answered with the next basket.
In the end that coolness told and Demons captain Coughlan became the first man to lift the National Champions Trophy - the third major trophy of the season for Irish Men’s SuperLeague clubs.
Earlier in the season Bord Gais Neptune won the SuperLeague Cup while UL Eagles claimed the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague title.
Directly prior to the Demons v Saints contest, Huskies had a somewhat easier victory as they proved too strong for a gallant but outmatched DCU Mercy outfit, winning on a final score line of 78 to 56.
A superb performance by Olympian Rachael Vanderwal, that saw her finish with a personal tally of 23 points, earned her the MVP.
However, there were stars aplenty for Huskies, who led for all but the first minutes of the game.
The win was their third straight Nivea Women’s SuperLeague title, a run that has catapulted them up to tied first with WIT Wildcats for the most SuperLeague titles of any Irish women’s basketball club on six.
Other stars on the day for Huskies included Aoife McDermott, who had 15 points and ten rebounds, and Michelle Fahy, who finished with 14 points of her own.
The day also saw the National Basketball Arena host the Basketball Ireland Men and Women’s Division One finals, for teams just below SuperLeague level.
In the men’s final, it was another year and another heartbreak for Matt O’Flaherty Chemist Titans who fell to Blue Demons, making it Titans fifth straight League final loss at this level.
In the end, Demons scoring fire power was too much for Titans defence to handle and resulted in the title returning to Leeside after an absence of many years on a final score of 88 to 63.
In the last two meetings between these teams the Titans came out on top but this wasn’t obvious at the start of this game.
Blue Demons, whose SuperLeague side would later in day win the National Champions Trophy, hit the lead early and maintained it for the entire game.
While Titans did not play to their potential, credit must be given to Demons who showed a team spirit and willingness to fight for every ball that was not to be denied on the occasion.
By games end five Demons had scored in double figures and they sealed the win with a slam-dunk from Thibaut Priou as they ran away 25-point winners. Chritian Anon of Blue Demons, who finished the game with 22 points, was named the game's MVP.
Meanwhile, in the Women’s Division One final, after so many final heartbreaks here at the National Basketball Arena, Tralee Imperials were finally on the winning side with a dominating defensive performance that saw them ease past Oblate Dynamos 53 to 24.
It was only two months ago that the Oblate Dynamos and Tralee Imperials matched up against each other at this venue for the Senior Women’s National Cup Final. On that occasion, Oblate were Cup winners but in this one, Tralee certainly settled the score.
Allowing only two points from Dynamos in the entire first quarter, there was little doubt as to who would win this final and when Tralee again only allowed four points in the final quarter, Dynamos fate was firmly sealed.
Towering above a team performance filled with excellent displays was Imperial’s Sinead Mackessy, who finished with a staggering 21 rebounds to go along with 19 points and she was duly awarded the final’s MVP.
To round of the results for the Munster clubs, Singleton SuperValu Brunell of Cork got the day’s action underway with a convincing win against Killester of Dublin in the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague Plate final, 60 to 45.
A particular note of interest arising out of this final, between the two best sides not to have made the Women’s SuperLeague Playoffs, was the achievement of Brunell’s Edel Thornton.
Thornton, who connected on 28 points in the final, was unanimously chosen as the game’s MVP. The 17-year-old wonder had earlier in the season become the first player to ever MVP for U18 and U20 National Cup finals in the same year.