Aquinas U16 basketball team have made it through to the semi finals of the U16 National Cup with a 39-37 win in Scoil Chuimtiseach Chiarain, Leitirmor, CoGalway.

The much bigger home team started brightly and ran into a 6-0 lead as Aquinas struggled to find their legs after a six hour journey the previous evening.  Matthew Leggett and Alex McConaghy got theBelfast school on the scoreboard as they cut the deficit, while once again the introduction of Gareth Lyttle proved inspirational as Aquinas went in 10-9 up at the end of the first quarter.

Although McConaghy picked up another foul and had to sit for the second quarter, Aquinas went in 19-17 up at half time led by inspirational defence from captain and point guard Rory Maguire together with great rebounding by Aidan O’Kelly,

The third quarter belonged to the home team as they dominated the outside shooting with two 3 pointers and going into the last eight minutes were up 28-25.  Another great defensive play by Rory Maguire inspired Aquinas to start a comeback.  Baskets from O’Kelly, McConaghy, Lyttle and Saul Caskey saw the game swing back to the visitors but another 3 pointer from the home side tied the game at 37 apiece.

Gareth Lyttle then got a lay up but had the subsequent ruled out for no apparent reason.  With 11 seconds on the clock, Mr McAufield called a tactical timeout and Aquinas made one last defensive stand to hold out for a great win on the road.

McConaghy and O’Kelly had 12 points apiece while Lyttle added a valuable 10.

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Aquinas in every round.  An easy win overPatricianCollege, Mallow in the first round was followed by an overtime victory at home againstPalmerstownCommunity College.  The quarter final win was no less tense with Aquinas players showing great character and determination to carve out the victory.

Aquinas, with kits sponsored by MediCare, will now play either St Clement’s College Limerick or Our Lady’s Castleblayney in the semi final in mid December at a neutral venue.