Under 16A Girls All-Ireland Schools League Final
Colaiste Chiarain gain derby bragging rights
COLAISTE CHIARAIN……………………………………………………… 49
ARDSCOIL RATHANGAN………………………………………………… 44
By DAIRE WALSH
Late scores from Niamh Masterson, Ciara Bracken and Sorcha Tiernan proved decisive at the National Basketball Arena last Thursday afternoon, when Colaiste Chiarain were crowned Under-16A Girls All-Ireland Schools League champions at the end of a pulsating encounter with Ardscoil Rath Iomhghain.
The dynamic duo of Claire Melia and Aine Nash (who finished with a combined tally of 38 points) were in devastating form for Catherine Ashe’s side, but in a game that ebbed and flowed throughout, it was the Leixlip girls who ultimately secured the silverware.
Chiarain had enjoyed a whirlwind start to the proceedings, as just 90 seconds in they opened up a seven-point cushion. Masterson followed up her opening score with an outstanding three-pointer, and via excellent approach play by Tiernan and Kate O’Toole, Maedhbh Hanlon also added two points to her team’s total.
A two-point Nash salvo got the Rathangan account up and running, and thanks to an exceptional five-point haul from Melia, they suddenly found themselves in the ascendancy.
Indeed, Nash’s three-pointer stretched Rathangan’s lead even further, before scores from Susie Walsh and Masterson helped Chiarain to restore parity (11-11) as a gripping first-quarter came to an end.
Another majestic Nash three-pointer kicked Rathangan back into gear, but Chiarain built momentum of their own with eight unanswered points by O’Toole (six) and Tiernan (two). Rathangan never allowed their north county counterparts to fully dictate the flow of the tie, though, and owing to heroics from Melia, the energetic Grace Dunne and Nash, they were back in front just three minutes before the break.
Tiernan and Masterson contributed much-needed two-pointers for Chiarain, but with Melia elevating her personal total up to 10 points, Rathangan brought a 24-23 buffer into the interval period.
However, it was during the third-quarter that the Leixlip school produced the kind of interplay worthy of prospective league champions.
Efforts from Masterson (three) and O’Toole (two) offered them an early edge after the restart, and even though Melia secured a single, two points from Hanlon helped Chiarain to a five-point lead.
The Melia and Nash double act again came up trumps for Rathangan with badly-needed scores, but with Niamh Burke, Emma Doolin and Sarah Walsh all playing their part, Chiarain’s defensive work in the third-quarter was superb.
They also remained potent on the counter attack, and were 34-29 ahead eight minutes from time after Masterson and Bracken found the target from tight angles. It was far from being a lost cause for Rathangan, however, and it took them less than two minutes to level matters in the fourth period of play.
Melia (three) and Nash displayed their worth once more, and when Chiarain captain Tiernan responded with two free shot points, Melia restored balance with a similar scoring feat. This set-up a nerve-wracking finale, and with just three minutes remaining on the clock, it was impossible to predict how events would transpire.
Rathangan and Melia made the initial move for the finishing line, but Tiernan led by example with four consecutive points. Nevertheless, Rathangan felt that the title was within their grasp, and just 85 seconds from the conclusion, Laura Dempsey edged them back into the lead.
Yet, when the pressure was on, Chiarain took the game by the scruff of the neck. Contributions from Masterson and Bracken (four) left Rathangan with too much to do in the closing moments. The outstanding Melia did increase her tally to 22 points, but the influential Tiernan had the final say for Colaiste Chiarain.
Scorers – Colaiste Chiarain: Niamh Masterson 17, Sorcha Tiernan 12, Kate O’Toole 8, Ciara Bracken 6, Maedhbh Hanlon 4, Susie Walsh 2. Ardscoil Rathangan: Claire Melia 22, Aine Nash 16, Grace Dunne 4, Laura Dempsey 2.
COLAISTE CHIARAIN: Sorcha Tiernan, Ciara Bracken, Niamh Masterson, Maedhbh Hanlon, Kate O’Toole, Susie Walsh, Ashley Njonguo.
ARDSCOIL RATHANGAN: Claire Melia, Aine Nash, Alanna McLoughlin, Niamh Burke, Emma Doolin, Sarah Walsh, Laura Dempsey, Courtney Caldwell, Grace Dunne, Caitlin Fullam, Amy Nash, Julia Marron.