Thunder’s ravenous hunger spoils Paul’s appetite

Utility Trust St Pauls 63
Swords Thunder 69
Report: Enda Walshe 

When assessing the merits of this game, it would be important to remember that in the case of Utility Trust St Pauls, it was all about applying the cherry to the icing on top of the cake.

With the ultimate box of promotion to the Superleague ticked, it would have been a wonderful aperitif to complement a feast of a season but, unfortunately, on this occasion Swords Thunder allied a ravenous hunger with a well-executed game plan to carry the spoils.

Denise Dunlea: Got Killarney up and running

That’s not to say that St Pauls weren’t up for the clash but it’s safe to say the harder they tried the worse it got for them.

Like all champions, they fought to the bitter end, relying on a winners’ instinct but, unfortunately, the ball decided to bounce the other way, more often than not into the hands of a grateful Swords outfit.

The victory was built around the terrific trio of game MVP Jensen Caretti, Jasmine Walker and Peggy Black who applied the fatal wounds at various stages.

One feature of St Paul’s league triumph in March was the fast start but this was denied to them on this occasion by the hot hands of the aforementioned trio. Sofia Paska, Denise Dunlea and Khiarica Rasheed had got their side up and running and midway through the first quarter it was 12-11 in St Paul’s favour.

Dunlea, in particular, had made an impressive start but that was pockmarked by early foul trouble, a feature of the first half. They may have felt aggrieved by some of the calls but Paska made sure parity was maintained at the end of the opening period.

Lynn Jones: Can’t lose sight of a great season

The second quarter opened in similar fashion with Paska particularly impressive and when Dunlea hit a brace of baskets it looked like St Pauls were starting to dominate.

Rasheed kept that vibe going to open up a 27-20 lead midway through but Aisling O’Sullivan, in her career swansong, hit a couple of threes, sandwiching a Walker special to pull level.

An unsportsmanlike foul looked like being the spur for another rally but Caretti was imperious at both ends and she helped to share the spoils at half-time, 34 -34.

Early free throws from Lorraine Scanlon gave James Fleming’s side an early leg up but Swords were starting to heat up, combining solid defence with unerring accuracy. Megan Howe climbed off the bench to hit a big three but Rheanne O’Shea went coast to coast for a superb reply.

Megan Connolly supplemented efforts from Walker and Black to push the lead out to 10, 54-44, but Dunlea had the last word of the quarter, cutting the gap to seven, at three quarter’s stage.

Rasheed and O’Shea seemed to have the engines purring at the onset of the final period, their efforts putting St Pauls ahead for what seemed like the first time in an age.

All evening coach Fleming had shuffled his deck in an attempt to garner winning momentum with Leah McMahon and Meabh Barry doing their utmost but the wind was definitely in Swords’ sails as Black, Howe and Caretti set for home.

Sofia Paska: Contributed 16 points on the day

Paska tried to carry the load inside, even cutting the gap to two inside the final minutes but Laura Fortune and Walker applied the finishing touches to a scoreline that saw Swords six clear at its end, 69-63.

Khiarica Rasheed top scored for St Pauls with 19, closely folllowed by Paska with 16 and Dunlea with 14. Rheanne O’Shea had 10, Lorraine Scanlon hit three and Lynn Jones contributed one.

For Swords the terrible trio of Caretti, Walker and Black combined for 49 points, complimented by Aisling O’Sullivan on six and Laura Fortune on five.

Speaking post game coach James Fleming and joint captains Rheanne O’Shea and Lynn Jones were unanimous in the thought that defeat on the day shouldn’t overshadow a season’s work.

Rheanne O’Shea: Going to the well once too often

O’Shea was full of praise for Swords: “They hit some massive shots. They are a good team with two great Americans. It was nip and tuck all the way but I suppose after a long season it was just a case of going to the well once too often.”

Coach Fleming was glowing in the praise of his squad: “I couldn’t be prouder of them. They are a great team. Six weeks ago we were on cloud nine after winning promotion so I suppose you could say were on cloud eight now. This won’t overshadow what has been a magnificent season for everyone.”

Jones, in the autumn of her career, felt the long season took its toll: “We just felt a little bit flat after a long year. There wasn’t much gas left in the tank at the end. Of course we wanted to win but we’ve had a great season and we can’t lose sight of that”. No other local publication can match our reach. To advertise call 087-2229761