RECAP: Ireland U20 women lose out to Bulgaria in semi-final
August 10, 2019
There was big disappointment for the Ireland Under 20 women’s team this afternoon as they lost out to Bulgaria 68-58 in the semi final of the FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship Division B in Kosovo.
The loss now puts Ireland into a bronze medal play off tomorrow [Sunday] with the losers of the Great Britain and Finland game (currently ongoing). Tomorrow’s play-off game is a winner takes all affair, as the winning side will not only secure a bronze medal, but will also earn promotion to A Division basketball.
It was a game of fine margins this afternoon though, as despite a phenomenal performance from team captain Claire Melia, who finished out the game with 22 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and three blocks and another solid team display on defense, it just wasn’t enough in the face of an extremely quick and sharp shooting Bulgaria. Point guard Karina Konstantinova dictated the pace at the top of the key, and added 11 points for her side, but dagger threes from Viktoria Ivanova and Yanina Todorova as well as a strong performance from Gergana Ivanova and top-scoring Denitsa Petrova proved to be the difference in the end, as they forced Ireland into a number of turnovers to get some key scores at crucial stages in the game.
The early exchanges of the first quarter were neck-in-neck, with Ireland working hard under the boards to see Melia finish out the quarter with nine points, while scores from Dayna Finn and Huijsdens also followed. Bulgaria began to find their rhythm as the quarter ticked down with Ivanova bagging her first three of the game, while Todorova added six to their tally to see them lead 21-14 at the end of the first. Ireland kept right with them in the second quarter though, with Enya Maguire making an instant impression off the bench – knocking down five quick points - while Melia continued to dominate the boards inside. More scores from Finn, Huijsdens and Tiernan followed to keep Bulgaria on their toes, but good scores from Todorova saw them into a 34-29 point lead at the half.
Ireland came out all guns blazing in the third quarter, with two huge scores from Sorcha Tiernan and a massive finish from Melia sending Ireland into the lead. A quick time out by Bulgaria saw Todorova respond with a big three though and again, as Finn replied with a great drive for Ireland, Stefani Pendova hit a big three for Bulgaria to widen the margin back out to 10 points once more. Melia again was on hand to close the gap, but again Bulgaria hit a dagger three at the other end, this time from Denitsa Petrova. Ireland were unlucky not to finish out some good chances, despite strong work on defense from across the team. Two big scores from Finn – including a crucial three – closed out the quarter for the Irish to see them trail again by just seven points, 50-43.
Ireland continued to work hard in the fourth, with Annaliese Murphy, Alison Blaney, Maeve Phelan and Louise Scannell all putting the Bulgarians under big pressure. Again, there were stages in the quarter where shots just weren’t dropping for the Irish but nice link up play between Tiernan and Finn kept the game right in the melting pot. With Bulgaria in foul trouble, Ireland kept mounting the pressure, but more sharp three point shooting helped them to keep ahead, and despite scores from Melia once more, time ran out for Ireland and they lost out 68-58 in the end.
Speaking afterwards, head coach Martin Conroy said: “I’m not feeling too great after that to be honest. I thought we had our homework done and we were ready to go. The girls really put all the effort in like they always do, this is a very special group of girls. It’s going to be tough tomorrow, but that’s the job we have to do and we’re going to pick ourselves up now and get ready to go again tomorrow - to get promoted and to get a bronze medal would be a serious thing for this programme.”
Ireland will play the losers of Great Britain and Finland (currently ongoing) at 3.30pm Irish time tomorrow (Sunday).
IRELAND: Alison Blaney, Dayna Finn (13), Enya Maguire (5), Annaliese Murphy, Sorcha Tiernan (7), Maeve Phelan (3), Rachel Huijsdens (6), Louise Scannell (2), Amy Dooley, Claire Melia (22), Maggie Byrne, Amy Murphy (inj.).
Ireland U20 Women’s Result
Ireland 58-68 Bulgaria
WATCH BACK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuhdD18IcbY