A double-double from Isaac Westbrooks proved crucial as Swords Thunder overcame a late rally from Moycullen to book their place in the Irish men’s cup final, writes Emmet Ryan
This one looked like it was going to be an utter rout early as Isaac Westbrooks channeled Milos Teodosic in the first quarter. The Swords Thunder point guard had 10 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and a steal in the opening 10 minutes as the cup favourites moved into a 25-17 lead after 10 minutes.
The depth on the Swords line-up appeared to prove telling in the second quarter as Alex Dolenko, with Ukrainian Superleague experience, and Spaniard Jose Gil Narbon took the load and it all appeared to be going to coach Dave Baker’s plan. While Swords only dressed 9 players for this one, they have more options than anyone in the Irish league and it’s tough for other clubs to live with their pace. Holding a 43-29 lead at the half, everything seemed on track.
Then Moycullen’s outside game exploded. Making 9 three pointers in the second half, the Galway club appeared to have found a way through the massive size advantage held by Swords. With neither of the Thunder’s Americans, Justin Goldsbrough and Conroy Baltimore, having good days at the office, Moycullen were able to stretch the floor. With the home grown crop taking care of business on the outside, Phillip Lawrence-Ricks was able to make a big impact on the inside.
With three minutes to go, there was suddenly a real game on here and it took some outstanding ball to get Swords over the line. Only up six, it was Westbrooks time and he combined with Dolenko to close it out. Swords were expected to make light work of this one but it took a big final line from their point guard to get them over the line. Westbrooks finished with 19 points, 12 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals while Dolenko contributed 8 points and 4 boards off the bench.
Despite making it back to the big one, Swords won’t be happy with their performance here. It was sloppy in large parts and neither of their imports ever imposed themselves on the game. With two American 5s, the idea for Baker is to platoon them but both looked well below par in this outing. Still, the Swords team survived and remembers all too well how their campaign ended a year ago. A rimmed out three attempt by Westbrooks last year was all that stood between them and overtime in the decider. This year, they get their chance to make amends.