BC Wolves went all the way to Letterkenny to play Blaze team in BNI Men’s Plate competition, the winners booking their quarter-final spot.
The Blaze team is from Division One but are struggling to show their true ability in the league, so Wolves didn’t feel a lot of pre-game pressure and just knew what they had to do.
Even with only half squad registered, the first period was won by Blaze, but only 18-17. After that the Wolves started to push forward and stayed focused on zone defence.
And the tactics paid off, the match won 47-80 and ticket to the quarter-final was theirs.Top scorers: Robertas Gurskas with 29 including seven three-pointers, and Edgaras Lembertas with 18 points.
The last eight match was in Omagh against Thunder, again a higher division team - in second place in the table and a threat to semi-final aspirations. The atmosphere on the court was amazing, with full crowd of spectators supporting Thunder and about 20 fans with The Wolves side.
The start wasn’t that good for the Cookstown men. Robertas Gurskas tried to take the initiative, making some great shots, but he was overwhelmed by Thunder defence, and during one of the offensive plays two on two, was stopped and lost the ball. Gurskas lost his temper and started to shout about why there wasn’t a foul called. He got a technical foul, and still wasn’t happy and started trash talk to referee who eventually called another technical foul and Wolves’ main player had to leave the court. Even with the captain out, Wolves didn’t panic and, led by Rolandas Bartkus, individual players went forward to amass 22 points in the second period.
After half time, Thunders went man on man defence to zone, as Cookstown stuck on the offensive. Alas, in first five minutes they got no points, while Thunders were on fire. The score melted to 11 points for the visitors, but then they started to play more as a team and again went in front.
The last period was only for the statistics, Thunders with no chance of making up the deficit and Wolves went on to win the match 58-87. The semi-final ticket was in our pocket. Top scorers: Rolandas Bartkus 41 points and Sarunas Razmus with 13 points.
The semi-final was against Tyrone Towers, Cookstown winning the first period 19-13.
But the Dungannon men hit back and by halftime it was all-square, 34:34 .
Wolves asserted again in the third quarter to 56-47 after a fantastic sector of hussle, all-tied with 90 seconds to go before Wolves created some turnovers, player-coach Rolandas at centre of action. A high concentration on defence saw them get nine points.
The last quarter was nip and tuck as Tyrone pressed, but Robertas Gurskas managed to keep Wolves in the lead with fantastic guard control and outside shooting.
With three seconds to go, and three points behind, Towers executed a superb in-bounds play for their MVP and captain Mark Gallagher but Tomas Burbulis challenged well as Wolves won 67-64 to reach their first final.
Top scorers: Robertas Gurskas 23, Rolandas Bartkus 14, Tomas Burbulis 12.
The final was in Derry’s Foyle Arena but, with so many fans, Wolves felt like we are playing in a home court in Cookstown; thanks to the best fans in Northern Ireland.
The first quarter ended Tigers 20-18 Wolves. Tigers began strong with Declan Kelly putting back some offensive rebounds, but Wolves finished strongly as the player-coach entered the game. His size and footwork created match-up problems which led to Tigers getting into foul trouble and Wolves finishing with over 12 shots at the free-throw line.
At halftime it was Tigers 25-35 Wolves, inside advantage opening the three-point line for Robertas Gurskas as he hit three of them to give Wolves the lead. Tigers battled hard through the quarter with D Murray leading the charge but the shots just didn’t drop.
But quarter three saw Tigers back in front 48-46, their attacking style rewarded as the baskets started dropping and Wolves in foul trouble. In the last 10 seconds R Best bagged the two point margin. Wolves maintained the lead for most of the quarter due to some stellar defence from T Burbulis who then started the fast-break with bullet outlet passes but a huge turnover on the spin dribble gave Tigers the ball with 10 seconds left.
The last quarter of the plate final was a great battle as the Rolandas Bartkus re-entered play after eight minutes and became centre piece of offence. Tigers countered with Donal Brady stepping up with lovely mid range pull up jumpers, the lead changing six times before Tigers tired and gave away fouls and shots just fell short. Wolves went on a 10-0 run, Tigers 65-74 Wolves 74.
MVP Robertas Gurskas for Wolves was the height of consistency throughout, especially when most needed.
BC Wolves thank all the fans, and we hope to see you soon on the league games !!!
Top scorers: Robertas Gurskas and Rolandas Bartkus with 26 points each, and Tomas Burbulis 14 points.