Basketball: Ireland improve FIBA Europe standing despite final day defeat

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Updated: August 3, 2015
irish basketball
reland lost out to FYR Macedonia 84-70 on the last day of the U18 Men’s European Championships in Austria to finish 22nd of 24 countries. The result is Ireland’s best finish at U18 Men’s level  since 2007, after a last place finish in 2008, a five year hiatus and a last place finish in 2014. Ireland had beaten Macedonia 74-71 in the group stages and avoided a relegation battle with a stirring win over Luxembourg.
“Having played this team already would have definitely crept in and had a factor in how the game went,” said Tournament MVP Candidate Jordan Blount. “Personally I feel in this game we didn’t come out with the same intensity we had at the start of the tournament.”
Ryan Leonard was the leading shooter in the early exchanges but a two-minute flatline allowed Macedonia take the lead after five minutes. The eastern Europeans were playing with a point to prove and it took Marcus Black to assist for Stephen O’Hanlon on the break and then drop his own three-pointer to reduce the gap to 23-17 for Q1.
Macedonia had the lead out to 12 points after 14 minutes and forced Joey Boylan to take a time out and Jordan Blount to step up. The Cork starlet  made five free-throws in a row and his driving layup left a point between the sides.
Andrej Maslinko had a relatively quiet outing in the Group D fixture. By half time the 6’10’’ centre had 20 points in the paint and a 44-41 lead for his side.
Ireland went in search of parity from the restart as Jordan Blount threw an alley-oop for Ryan Leonard and Joe Tummon’s hook shot made it a one possession game.
Head Coach Joey Boylan said “The last five minutes of the third quarter they just pulled away. They went to a zone and we didn’t react to it well. They got a couple of fast break points and went on a 16-6 run.”
Conor Ryan brought physicality and two quick baskets off the bench but Ireland were chasing a 13 point deficit and could only shoot 1/7 three-point attempts down the stretch.
Jordan Blount believes more Ireland squads should be aiming higher: “We try to put it down as ‘Oh it’s just another Irish team that’s not at that level, but that’s not it at all because we’re at that level.
“People need to realise that it’s not acceptable just to go out and lose by ten in every game and be happy with that. We need to hold ourselves accountable and try and win games instead of just trying to compete and lose by ten.”
Ireland: Stephen O’Hanlon (7), Ryan Leonard (12), Jordan Blount (18), Martin Neary (8), Joe Tummon (4).
Substitutes: Eoin Rockall (3), Tariq Guebaili (1), Kevin Doran, Marcus Black (9), Owen Connolly (2), James Byrne (2), Conor Ryan (4)

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