RECAP: Ireland U18 men lose out Game 3 to Ukraine
July 28, 2019
So close and yet so far was the name of the game for the Ireland Under 18 men as they lost out a thriller against Ukraine this evening, 74-63, in their third group game at FIBA U18 Men’s European Championship Division B in Romania.
The boys in green came back from 16 points down to close the margin back to four points in the early stages of the fourth quarter, but Ukraine’s size and sharp shooting outside the arc down the stretch was ultimately the difference.
There were stand out performances for the boys in green across the floor though, most notably from CJ Fulton, Sanmi Fajana and Rapolas Buivydas, while David Lehane put in a superb defensive display. Fulton continued to impress with some superb assists throughout and added 11 points for the side, while Fajana put in a huge first half to finish quarter two with 19 points to his name (and finish the game with 22), while a massive second half from Buivydas saw him secure a big double double of 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Ukraine had the better of the opening exchanges, with Oleksandr Kovliar and Ihor Serheiev causing trouble for the Irish defense, to take an early lead. Scores from James Connaire and seven points from Fajana following great link-up play with CJ Fulton, closed the gap back, but Ukraine held the lead at the end of the first, 16-9. Ireland kept working hard in the second and despite some early scores from Ukraine, began to click offensively with Fajana and Fulton dominating the play, to see the former finish the half out with 19 points, while Fulton bagged five points of his own. Ukraine led the way at the half by ten, 36-26.
A massive third quarter from the Irish followed, with Buivydas making an impression almost immediately, grabbing seven rebounds and adding 14 points to Ireland’s tally. Fulton added another six points, while a good score from Matt Harper and a bucket from Paul Kelly brought the game right back into the melting pot. Illia Zaiets began to dominate on the offensive end for Ukraine, knocking down 14 points in the quarter, but the game was right there for the taking as Ireland trailed by just six going into the last, 57-51.
The fourth quarter was neck-in-neck throughout the early stages. With the game on a knife-edge with seven minutes to play, Buivydas had the crowd on their feet as he slotted home a super shot to close the gap to 61-57. He followed this with a massive block at the other end a minute later and it looked like Ireland were going to come back and take the lead.
Missed free throws for Ireland a minute later though were punished almost immediately at the other end with a jump shot, while Zaiets scored a huge three pointer for Ukraine seconds later to stretch their lead back out to 66-57. Buivydas responded at the other end with a big drive, but again Ukraine had the answer from outside the three-point line and unfortunately, time ran out for the Irish and they lost out 74-63 in the end.
“I’m proud, frustrated, disappointed and exuberant,” said head coach Paul Kelleher afterwards. “I’m thrilled with the performance, I think when you take on a team like Ukraine it’s fine margins and I think we did a much better job from the middle of the second and our transition defense was a little bit better. We won the turnover battle and the rebound battle, we missed a few throws and some lay ups but those are the margins. Our boys were magnificent – the performance, the execution, just a few more shots these are the things we need to figure out going forward."
Ireland U18 Men’s team result:
Group Game 3
Ukraine 74-63 Ireland
IRELAND: Ronan Cregan, Matthew Harper (4), Nate Moore, Paul Kelly (2), CJ Fulton (11), Tiernan Howe, James Connaire (2), David Lehane, Daire Kennelly, Rapolas Buivydas (22), Sanmi Fajana (22), Leeroy Odiahi.
WATCH BACK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ytIcwBnMc0