Back to reality for Marian

UCD Marian 87
Killester 93

UCD Marian kicked off their season with a hard-fought defeat against first-placed Killester in the UCD Sports Centre last Saturday night. The visitors rallied from a two-point deficit at half to time leave Belfield as eventual winners, building on their victory 79-61 dismantling of Dublin Inter in the first week of action.

Conor Meany was the stand-out player for a UCD Marian side who were ultimately undone by their own indiscipline. New head coach Ioannis Liapakis will be encouraged by certain aspects of Marian’s play, but he will have to address the team’s fitness levels, as they allowed the game to get away from them late in the fourth quarter.

The defeat marked the first game of the Liapakis era, who joins UCD Marian from DCU, where he won the U-20 National Cup with DCU Mercy. Liapakis arrived in UCD over the summer with a European pedigree already, having spent some time as a coach with AEK Athens in his native Greece.

Killester got out to an early start in the game, establishing a five-point lead after the opening five minutes, although they did not hold the lead for long as UCD tied the game at 16-a-piece, following an impressive three-pointer from the in-form Meany two minutes later.

The sides traded scores for the remainder of the opening quarter, as UCD Marian took a 24-22 lead into the second period of play. Marian were allowed to pick up some cheap point in the first quarter, as Killester found themselves with three players on two fouls early on.

Marian began the second period with a blitz of their guests, as they opened up a 31-26 advantage, outscoring the visitors 7-2 in the first minute and a half of the quarter. Killester needed to find a way to stop the momentum the home side were building up to avoid falling too far away, and the phenomenal Isaac Westbrooks did just that.

As UCD marched towards the basket, Westrbrooks stepped forward to make a crucial steal and he made no mistake in turning the tables and driving to the Marian basket to pull Killester to within three points.

It wasn’t long before UCD drew the lead out to six points, their largest lead of the night. Liapakis decided to call a time out with just over five minutes remaining in the half, a decision that he may look back on and regret.

Almost immediately after the time out, he was forced to take Neil Baynes off to avoid him picking up too many fouls as UCD’s indiscipline allowed Killester to whittle away at their lead by putting up five unanswered points.

A neat basket for UCD as the shot clock expired was quickly followed by two baskets in twenty seconds by the visitors as Killester regained the advantage for the first time since the seventh minute of the game.

Again, the sides traded baskets, although UCD proved to be a little more prolific than Killester as they went into the half time break with the score sitting at 48-46, a fair reflection of how close the first half’s proceedings had been.

The third quarter was the closest of the entire game, as neither team could establish any sort of dominance over the other, with nether side opening up a gap of more than four points on their opponents.

The teams looks perfectly matched, as every three-pointer by one side was immediately followed by a similar play by the other. A Killester time out with just over six minutes remaining in the quarter was to prove a turning point, as they were able to plan a turnaround from a two-point deficit to a four-point lead by the end of the quarter.

Both teams were visibly tired, as the final period of the game opened with neither of the two sides able to register a single point for the first 80 seconds, until Kevin Foley sunk a three-pointer that brought the crowd to life.

The home fans were doing their best to cheer their team on to an opening day victory, but Michael Westbrooks followed up Foley’s three-pointer with a three-point play of his own, as he made an impressive basket, despite being fouled in the process. He then cooly slotted home the free-throw, despite the home fans’ best attempts to distract him.

Spurred on by the crowd, Meany once again drove home a sweet basket to reduce the gap, but a minute later Mike Bonaparte struck back with an immense slam dunk. It only took Marian a few seconds to respond, as they took the lead through a perfect three-point effort.

Unfortunately, it was to be their last lead of the game, as they could not capitalise on the visitors’ inaccuracy from the free-throw line. Although he struggled to convert his free-throws, Bonparte recorded another powerful dunk to emphasise Killester’s late-game dominance, as they eventually ran out 87-93 winners.

Marian now look forward to a meeting with a Moycullen team who finished on the same amount of points as them last season. Although they lost on Friday, UCD will go travel to Galway on Saturday with the confidence that they can pull out a win. Moycullen, meanwhile, go into the game on the back of two defeats, both by more than ten points.