Ulster Rockets made history in booking their place in their first National Cup final over the weekend.
Despite a contribution of 29 points from Jamiyah Bethune, ITC Basketball fell to the Rockets 64 – 73 in a thrilling Hula Hoops Senior Women’s National Cup semi-final.
In what was a top of the table clash, the Rockets battled the first-placed ITC with Ulster’s Mairead McNally and Carlee Lough getting the Rockets on the board.
Both teams produced full-court presses early in the game and the Rockets quarter-final MVP Zee Shahid-Martin and Troy ensured Ulster took the lead in the first quarter. led at the end of the first quarter, 17-21.
Carlee Lough nailed a three-pointer upon the restart but a tidy reverse lay-up on the baseline by Elaine Kennington and an Amy Dooley basket saw the sides tied once again only for poor rebounding making life difficult for ITC. A huge three by Charley McGrath gave Ulster the lead seconds before the close of the second quarter but Bethune – who had 19 first-half points – replied with one of her own to give ITC a two-point lead at half-time (39-37).
ITC had a terrific start with scores from co-captain Chris O’Gorman, Bethune and Campbell. However, Ulster continued to find an answer courtesy of Troy, McNally and Shahid-Martin and led 52-56 entering the final act.
Ulster opened up a six-point gap, but McCarthy, O’Gorman and Holli Dunne brought ITC back to within two with five minutes left. In the closing exchanges however Ulster’s Mairead McNally produced five monster points to give her side a seven-point lead (68-61) and they never looked back.
Speaking following her side’s win, Ulster Rockets’ coach Breda Dick was evidently thrilled with her side’s display. “It’s unbelievable. It’s a dream for all the girls who have worked so hard and I think it paid off tonight.
“This is our second time to meet them and there’s nothing between us. We lost to Marble City Hawks in the league but we’re really looking forward to the final now.”
ULSTER ROCKETS: Ciara O’Neill, Louisa Donnelly, Mimi Troy (14), Zee Shahid-Martin (20), Mairead McNally. Subs: Susan Dick, Maeve Deery, Eimhear Morris, Charley McGrath, Hannah Byrne, Carlee Lough (13).
Top scorers ITC Basketball: Jamiyah Bethune 29, Megan Campbell 11, Ciara McCarthy 10
Top scorers Ulster Rockets: Zee Shahid-Martin 20, Mimi Troy 14, Carlee Lough 13
The Rockets will face Marble City Hawks in the finals at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght on the 29th January 2017. The Hawks, currently sitting in 5th place in the Women’s Division 1, dispatched Oblate Dynamos to secure their place in the finals. Both teams have faced each other previously this season with the Hawks coming out on top when hosting the Rockets at O Loughlin Gaels Gym.