UCD Marian succumbed to a 62-59 defeat during the last few seconds of their opening match of the Nivea for Men’s Superleague against 11890 Killester Basketball Club. It was not the start to the season Marian had hoped for following the disappointment of last year’s campaign in both the National Cup and the Superleague.

A tough first game of the season saw UCD face off against 11890 Killester, a team that finished with nine more regular season wins than Marian last season, and won back-to-back Superleague titles in 2010 and 2011. The home side proved too strong and UCD Marian fell to an opening day defeat after a tight game and with a tense finish.

UCD’s John Galvin, an American import, was arguably his side’s man of the match, scoring almost half of the team’s points and sinking most of his field goals. In all, Galvin turned in an impressive shift and his 26 points were the most of any player on the court.

The game opened with quick points from both sides, with Killester leading by 7-4 after the initial surge of points. UCD fought hard to make the scores level after a time out and went on to hold on to a level score until the end of the first quarter, with the game finely balanced at 11-11.

In the second quarter, UCD found themselves with a 17-13 advantage with 7:23 to go in the quarter and even managed to extend their lead to 23-18. Another round of successful free-throws left UCD Marian in the lead at halftime, with a score of 30-27. Killester did not look intimidated by this lead and even showed signs of making a comeback, scoring just before the halftime buzzer.

It was not until 5:27 was left of the third quarter when, after a number of two-pointers by Eoin Chubb, Killester managed to catch up to UCD, with the score sitting at 36 apiece. Laurence Summers, another US import; this time playing for Killester, scored a skilful three-pointer to send the home team up by three, with the score at 43-40.

UCD regained their lead, making the score 46-45 in favour of the visitors heading into the final quarter. UCD maintained this momentum at the start of the fourth quarter with a flurry of rapid two-pointers by John Galvin and Conor James.

With 6:15 left of playtime UCD had a seven point cushin at 56-49. It was clear that the UCD Marian team were getting tired though, and with a number of substitutions made to the Killester team, they grinded their way back for an exciting climax.

With 34 seconds to go, Killester found themselves only one point behind UCD. A costly mistake by the Marian defence gave Killester two free throws, and they netted both. UCD then conceded another two free-throws, and Killester made sure of the victory with 13 seconds to go, after both shots went in the net, leaving UCD no time to bounce back. The game finished 62-59 in favour of the home side.

The defeat was disheartening to the away side. After what had been a brilliantly close game, with UCD coming out on top at the end of most of the quarters, it appears that they could have beaten Killester. Perhaps the experience of the home side shone through, as UCD seemed to lose their discipline as tiredness set in.

Both sides can take positives from this game. Even in defeat, the UCD Marian team seemed to be well structured and a good chemistry was apparent throughout the game. Conor James and John Galvin were responsible for a valiant defence as well as a brilliant counterattack.

Galvin, in particular, imposed himself on the game well and relied on his height to pop a few scores in from under the net. Killester will be happy with their ability to grind out the win when they were not at their best, while UCD will be annoyed for the very same reason.

Although this UCD Marian team does not appear to be at the same standard of the one that won the National Cup against Killester, two years ago, it is still too early in the young season to tell just how far they can go.

Next up for UCD Marian is a home game against Board Gáis Neptune, a team they beat 83-80 in a thriller in the first round of last year’s playoffs, on October 6th in the UCD sports complex. Neptune won all three regular season meetings between the sides last season by more than 20 points each time, but could not win when it most mattered.

Report by Dónal Woods