Warriors down Demons in stunning Cup comeback
FOR the first time in their short history, Garvey’s Tralee Warriors are through to the semi final of the Hula Hoops Pat Duffy National Cup after overcoming UCC Demons in a pulsating and at times dramatic quarter-final at the Tralee Sports Complex on Sunday afternoon.
The Warriors looked like exiting the competition midway through the third quarter before two big three point scores from Fergal O’Sullivan kickstarted a comeback to rescue the game from the brink and ultimately see the home side overpower their keen rivals in the final quarter. However up to that point it looked like the game had only one likely winner as Demons powered their way through the first two quarters to lead by 16 at half time with the Warriors uncharacteristically struggling at both ends of the court.
The lively Brandon Watts was on the mark for Demons twice in quick succession early in the first but Kieran Donaghy and Darragh O’Hanlon also found the target for Warriors. Jordan Evans hit the first three of the afternoon for the hosts before Girts Lazdans replied in kind the leave the sides level. Colin O’Reilly, Kyle Hosford and Lazdans combined to push Demons 17-9 ahead but Paul Dick, Evans and Dusan Bogdanovic all hit scores to cut the gap to a single point. Keith Jumper levelled the scores with his first of the day but Watts fired in from both inside and out to see Demons lead 23-18 at quarter time.
Donaghy opened the scoring again in the second for Warriors with the very first play and Paul Dick added two from the line to leave a single point between the sides. Demons then embarked on a stunning scoring spree netting a quick fire 20 points through Carlton Cuff, Colin O’Reilly, Lazdans and Watts to lay down the gauntlet to Warriors as they opened up a 17 point lead. Bogdanovic and Paul Dick hit back with scores to stem the blue and white tide but the elusive Watts finished of the half with another score from close range to see Demons take a 47-31 lead to the long break.
Janis Dumburs provided the Warriors with the perfect start by getting to the board early in the third but despite Evans with a three and Donaghy with a lay up, Demons continued their offensive attack on the Warriors net through Cuff, Watts and Colin O’Reilly to see the Leesiders build on their half time lead to go 57-39 up. Paul Dick kept the Warriors in touch with scores from inside and out but as Lazdans and O’Reilly fired Demons back out to a 16 point lead, Fergal O’Sullivan sparked a badly needed revival for the home side with a trademark three and repeated the feat with another cracking effort after Keith Jumper had converted free throws to cut the gap to a more manageable 9. The passionate Warriors following sensed the momentum shift back to the hosts and were on their feet when Paul Dick and Bogdanovic both laid up. When Eoin Quigley converted two free throws to cut the gap to just four they were yelling for more.
The Warriors revival continued unabated in the early stages of the final quarter with Paul Dick and Bogdanovic adding to level the score at 64 apiece. Demons regained the initiative briefly with a Colin O’Reilly three but the visitors were hit with back to back blows when both Carlton Cuff and the very ef- fective Girts Lazdans ran out of fouls and watched the re- mainder of this epic contest from the bench. O’Sullivan drove to the board to score and add the extra for Warriors and when Paul Dick converted two from two the home side took the lead for the first time in the game. The Complex was absolutely rocking now as Evans and Donaghy added to pile the pressure on Demons but Niall O’Reilly and Watts hit back to keep the outcome in the balance.
Evans then hit a stunning three to push the Warriors advantage out to a potentially game winning six points. But the hosts were almost immediately hit with a double blow with Kieran Donaghy and Eoin Quigley both reaching five fouls. Warriors Coach Pat Price had to quickly rethink his rotations as suddenly the game was back in the balance. Demons cut the gap to a single score when the O’Reilly brothers added a score each but Quigley eased the Warriors nerves with a lay up under the board. Colin O’Reilly hit two from two and David Lehane made one from two to leave just a single point between the sides in the shadow of the post. The Warriors were however to see the game out with Paul Dick assisting Bogdanovic to fire in and Evans dunked spectacularly much to the delight of the ecstatic Warriors faithful. In the final act of this epic battle Bogdanovic arced in the final score of the day from the line to see the Warriors prevail by 85-79 in the end.
Garvey’s Tralee Warriors face Pyrobel Killester in the Pat Duffy National Cup semi-final in Cork on the weekend of January 12 and 13.