Garvey’s Tralee Warriors cemented their position at the top of the Super League table after securing three more priceless points, this time at the expense of Maree, at the Castleisland Community Centre on Sunday night. The game was originally scheduled to be played on Saturday night in Tralee but Maree heeded the Storm Jorge red weather warning and did not travel to the Kingdom until Sunday afternoon.
And it was the visitors who were first on the mark with Kenny Hansberry landing the opening score but the Warriors quickly replied through Daniel Jokubaitis and Andre Berry. The sides went score for score until Eoin Quigley, Darragh O’Hanlon and Rap Buivydas added a quick trio of baskets for the League champions to push them out to a 19-12 lead. However Hansberry was on the mark again for Maree, this time from outside the arc, and when Paul Freeman got some traction inside he cut the Warriors lead to 23-18 at the end of the first quarter. (Pics courtesy of Liam Ryan)
Stephen Commins landed the first blow of the second quarter with a major score but Kieran Donaghy replied in kind for the hosts. Fergal O’Sullivan then brought the Warriors fans to their feet with back to back threes the home side had cut loose to lead by 10. John Burke and Oriol Balsells Plaza kept the visitors in touch but Andre Berry was proving to be more than a handful for Maree and two scores in quick succession followed by a cracking effort from distance from Darragh O’Hanlon had the Warriors 43-30 ahead as the sides took their long break.
The Warriors threatened to run riot early in the third when Berry, Donaghy, Quigley and Paul Dick were all in range to kick the lead out to 18. But Maree are nothing if not brave, and they fought their way back into the contest through Darin Johnson, Freeman, Hansberry and Balsells Plaza, and midway through the quarter the Warriors advantage was pegged back to 8. Johnson and Eoin Rockall with a three combined to edge the Galway side within 5 but that was to be as close as they were going to get as Ivan Bogdanovic then opened his account with a double and Jon Lawton stepped into position to land four scores in a row. However Maree were not deterred and when Johnson and Balsells Plaza both drove to score the Warriors lead was down to 11 points as the sides turned for home. (Pics courtesy of Liam Ryan)
Daniel Jokubaitis, who by his own recent standards was relatively quiet in the first three quarters, then laid on something of a shooting masterclass early in the fourth with four threes in a row, each one better than the next, delighting the big crowd in Castleisland and pushing the Warriors advantage out to 18. Freeman and Balsells Plaza kept plugging away for Maree and when Eoin Rockall got a couple of invitations to shoot from distance he twice obliged to keep the visitors in the game. Kenny Hansberry followed Rockall’s lead and when Freeman bossed his way to the board the Warriors still had work to do to close out the deal.
Pa McCarthy entered the fray and immediate impressed with four tough scores and when Darren O’Sullivan drained a three either side of a Kieran Donaghy and Andre Berry effort, in the blink of an eye the Warriors had signed, sealed and delivered the three points as they led by 20. Freeman, Commins and Johnson fought hard for Maree’s last three scores but when Berry was at his best inside again, it was left to Eoin Quigley to clock up the 100th point of the night for the Warriors with a free throw in the final seconds to give the defending champions win number 16 of the season.
With just two games remaining in the League campaign the Warriors are one win clear of their only rivals for title, Belfast Star. Belfast enjoyed a facile 102-61 win over Abbey Seals Dublin Lions in Clondalkin on Saturday night to stay within touching distance of the defending champions as the finishing line comes into sharp focus. (Pics courtesy of Liam Ryan)
Scorers: Warriors – Andre Berry 19, Daniel Jokubaitis 18, Jonathan Lawton 13
Maree – Darin Johnson 19, Paul Freeman 17, Oriol Balsells Plaza 15, Kenny Hansberry 15
Warriors coach Pat Price
Next up for the Warriors is their final home game of the regular season when they host Abbey Seals Dublin Lions at the Tralee Sports Complex next Saturday night with tip off at 7.30. (Pics courtesy of Liam Ryan)