The Northern Ireland School Girls U15 team ventured south to the National Basketball Arena, Tallaght to contest the annual BIPPS Inter regional tournament. Without the services of Erin Maguire of Ulidia Integrated College (injured) this U15 group still had aspirations of competing well with two years of playing together at BNI Girls Academy and the experience of International Coach Andy Gill at the helm.
The girls opened the tournament with their first ever win against the South. The girls were in control for most of the game executing aggressive full court defence and taking advantage of Abigail Rafferty’s (St Patrick’s Academy) increasing skill set in the paint. They did however have to withstand a South comeback in the last 3 minutes before they ran out winners by 4 points. Midlands were next on the agenda for the girls first thing on Saturday morning. This was our weakest performance of the weekend with a solid Midlands side punishing our inability to execute defensively in the second quarter. The girls lost by 17 but knew that they hadn’t played their best basketball.
Team West who were confident after beating South West in their opening encounter started the more confident. The teams went on to trade baskets but across each quarter the West were able to convert better on the offensive end particularly on their penetrations. The girls lost to the West, and eventual tournament winners by 10. The girls last game of the day was against the South West who had a number of interchangeable guards and some height advantage. The girls rallied well after letting the South West establish a foothold in the game. Abigail Rafferty was to the fore in the third and fourth period in this game with some nice guard play from Naoishe Burns and Emilie Rogers Duffy (St Genevieve’s HS) on display. The fatigue however took its toll with the girls going down by a deficit of just 4 points to what would be the beaten finalists in the tournament.
Sunday saw the girls rise for a 10:30 tip off in the BIPPS Plate semi-final against our old rivals North West. Cassie Taylor (Rathmore GS) had her best game of the tournament in Loretto Bray as she penalised North West for their over attention to Abigail Rafferty who had been dominating in the paint. This win over the North West was most notably after losing starting guard Naoishe Burns to 5 fouls with just under 2 mins to go in the second quarter. Playing with just four players on court this u15 team dug deep and ended up outscoring the opposition before the whistle sounded for half time. Bronagh Barker’s (St Pat’s Academy) aggressiveness paid dividends in this phase picking up some important transition steals. The second half turned into a non-event with Team North finishing 20 points better to secure their place in the Plate final against the Midlands.
The final saw team captain Naoishe Burns and Emilie Rogers Duffy put in their best performances of the weekend. Midlands were however very quick out of the blocks and within the early stages of the first quarter the North girls had endured a 12-point onslaught. Some effective timeouts settled the girls and allowed them to catch their second wind and regroup. The game remained tight throughout the second half with some great defensive plays by Anna Duncan (Wallace HS) offensive put backs by the baby of the team Linda Doyle (St Louise’s)and some mid-range jump shots by Alex Mervyn (St Genevieve’s) Laura McCann (Methodist College) was her usual solid self-sneaking in for some rebounds on both ends of the court and Beth Brennan’s (Our Lady & St Pat’s) tenacity in transition defence allowed her team to stay in contention and prove that the eventual 6 point deficit was more a reflection of our standard of play than the larger group game score.
This North U15 girls team did all they could over the two days and with such close deficits Coach Gill was just left pondering what could have been had the team been full strength with the addition of Erin Maguire and Fiona Connolly (ex St Genevieve’s HS). Either way the bottom line is this North team was competitive against all opposition they faced. The standout player of the weekend was St Pat’s Academy player Abigail Rafferty who has since been pre-selected for a final trial for the Ireland u15 girls squad. Congratulations to all the girls and the schools they represented and good luck to Abigail.
Head coach: Andy Gill
Assistant coach and team manager: Deirdre Brennan
Naoishe Burns (Capt)
Emilie Rogers Duffy
Laura Mc Cann