The Irish U18 Women’s Basketball team made history as they became the first Irish basketball team to compete in the top-tier of European basketball. The squad subsequently added to their record-breaking achievements by recording their first win.
This historic achievement is a result of the incredible journey last year, which saw the Irish basketball team take silver in at the U18 FIBA Division B Women’s European Championship. As a result of their success, they were promoted to Division A, Europe’s elite league.
Ireland had been drawn into a tough group with Poland, France and Russia. In their first group game in Division A, Ireland took on Poland. They were defeated 44-64 with Bronagh Power Cassidy top scoring for the side with 11 points.
Ireland then faced a strong Russian side whom who took victory with a 77-37 win. The Russian defence proved too strong as they extended their lead during the final quarter of the game. Ireland’s final game saw them face France who defeated them 39-62 despite Dayna Finn scoring 10 points and Ella McCloskey registering 9 rebounds for Ireland.
As a result of finishing fourth in their group, Ireland went on to face the Czech Republic who topped group Group C. The Czech Republic side had beaten Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia to take top spot.
Despite their best efforts and a strong second quarter, the Irish basketball team were defeated by the Czech Republic 71-37 in the clash. The loss meant that Ireland had to win two out of their final three games to stay in Division A, as the bottom three teams would be relegated to Division B.
Ireland’s first game was up against the hosts, Italy. They were defeated 64-54 despite both sides being very evenly matched. Dayna Finn was the star for Ireland as she shot 13 points and recorded 7 rebounds and 4 assists.
Ireland’s penultimate game came against Sweden. The girls in green made history as they recorded their first victory in Division A, keeping their hopes alive for retaining top tier status. After a fantastic all-round team performance, Ireland edged out an intense game from start to finish with a 53-52 win. Dayna Finn drove to the basket and scored the winning shot to give Ireland the win and make history.
This win meant that Ireland would face Bosnia and Herzegovina in a must win clash to save themselves from relegation. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be as Ireland were defeated 63-71. After a close first quarter, Bosnia and Herzegovina pushed on and pulled away in the second and third quarter. Ireland showed incredible heart and character in the final quarter and the comeback looked strong but despite their best efforts, it wasn’t enough to secure the victory. Enya Maguire topped scored for Ireland with an impressive 14 points.
The result means Ireland finished 14th in the tournament overall and this will see them play in Division B next year. Despite the disappointment of relegation, the Irish basketball team will be proud of their efforts and have shown they have what it takes to compete at Europe’s elite level. The experience gained from this tournament will stand to these athletes and shown they are definitely a force to be reckoned with when it comes to competing in Division B next year. Competing at elite level will spur the team on to improve, develop and fight to get back into that division in the future.