St. Patrick’s College U19s have claimed the Ulster U19 C League with a dramatic 47-45 Final victory over Lagan College in the Antrim Forum last Thursday.
This is a big scalp for the Ballymena school as Lagan would have come in as favourites having already claimed an Irish Cup Final slot at this level.
The opening quarter was a nervous affair for both teams with a considerable number of unforced errors at both ends of the court. Scores from Brendan OMullan and Johnny McCarte playing tough on the offensive boards saw St Patrick’s open a 2 point lead. They had to be solid on the defensive end giving very little space to a Lagan inside game that had a considerable height advantage. Lee Walsh on the point for St Patrick’s was a leader for the school, with 8 points in the opening quarter. His scoring and drive pushed St Patrick’s ahead by 4 at the end of the first quarter.
The second phase saw both teams score basket for basket and only in the closing phase of the half did Lagan step ahead with three point scores from Mellon. St Patrick’s were working the ball well in transition and set offence creating good opportunities but needed to finish their moves with more precision.
McCarte for St Patrick’s got in foul trouble and O’Mullan and McLean had a hard defensive task to control the boards. The team defense kept solid to deny any inside scores from the Belfast team. Fast breaking basketball gave McLean 4 points with 2 points from a jump shot high on the key and then he scored both free throws. O’Mullan took a give and go pass through the key to set in and regain the lead at 24 -22 before Mellon left open on the right gave Lagan the half time lead with a three pointer.
The third quarter saw the lead change many times after a period of St. Patrick’s control. As Lagan pulled ahead 37–35 through Carnie and Mellon. St. Patricks found their first three pointer of the game as Tim McNeill hit the net from deep in the corner to lift his team and send them into a very tense fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter saw St Partick’s dominate and they could have secured the win sooner but for some rushed and nervous turn overs. This kept Lagan in the contest as the lead remained at two points for a long time.
Niall Swann had an important impact with the game tied at 41 each, scoring two free throws. OMullan after a spell on the bench in foul trouble came back to the game to help secure the victory as Lagan went ahead again. He took the ball to the heart of the Lagan defence to score making it 45 – 43.
Mellon was to penetrate for Lagan to set in and tie it once again. It was the most fitting way to end this game with the MVP of the contest Lee Walsh securing the victory. The tricky point guard made a speed dart to the basket to set in and give St.Patrick’s their first Ulster title in three years, to the delight of coach Michael Murray.