There were huge celebrations in San Marino this afternoon as the Ireland senior men’s team stormed home to a podium finish with an 86-66 point victory over Gibraltar in the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries bronze-medal game.
Today’s clash saw a superb performance from the Irish, with Taiwo Badmus putting in an exceptional performance with 19 points, including two spectacular slam dunks to lead the Irish to victory. Indeed, Badmus was later named on the tournament All Star five team by FIBA – much to the delight of the large home support.
Ireland got off to a rapid start, with Badmus and Travis Black getting some big scores on the board, and Keelan Cairns and Ciaran Roe adding two big three-pointers to take an early 19-12 lead at the end of the quarter.
Pete Strickland’s men hit cruise control in the second quarter, with key scores from Badmus, Jordan Blount and Adrian O’Sullivan building the lead further, to have a 46-25 point cushion at the half.
Gibraltar made every effort to claw back the lead in the second half, with their star man Miguel Ortega Amusco on form from behind the three-point line, but the Irish were not going to be knocked off the podium and cruised home to a 20-point win in the end.
Speaking afterwards, head coach Pete Strickland stated: “The commitment we’ve got from our players is immense and their sacrifice has been incredible. It’s especially nice to end the tournament on a high note like this.”
Back home in Cork meanwhile there was disappointment for the Ireland senior women’s team this afternoon as they fell to Cyprus 75-82 in the 5/6th place classification game. Despite holding a 44-39 point lead at half-time, a shakey third quarter from the Irish allowed the visitors back into the game and it finished all square (62-62) going into the last. Big defense and some big scores from the girls in green were just not enough as momentum swung in favour of Cyprus down the stretch and they pushed on through to win out 75-82 in the end.
Speaking afterwards, head coach Mark Scannell said: “I’m very disappointed after today’s game, of course, but I want to compliment the girls for all of their hard work over the last two years. We have tried to put the best performances we could on here and we were unlucky at times, but that’s the way it goes.
“I felt we played some really good basketball at times, but perhaps lacked a bit of experience when we needed it.”
The Ireland senior men’s 3×3 team meanwhile just lost out to Spain in the last hour, 21-13, in an absolutely thrilling clash in Romania. The lads now go into classification stages, with their next fixture expected to be at approximately 7.20pm this evening.