by Shane Whelan
Ireland's Senior Men opened their European account on Saturday with a 66-50 defeat to Sweden at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght.
The opening period was proving extremely tight with neither side breaching the basket after the first two minutes. Sweden's Joakim Kjeubom finally opened the scoring when he converted from top of the key.
The visitor's early pressure continued and they soon found themselves 8-0 ahead with Kenneth Grant, Mats Levins and Kjeubom all showing good form. Aaron Westbrooks gave Ireland their first point from the free throw line, ending a drought of almost six minutes without a score.
Sweden capitalized on Ireland's shooting woes with Martin Palmblad and Grant hitting further three pointers to leave 13 points between the sides at the end of the first quarter. (2-15)
Ireland began to regain their composure at the beginning of the second quarter with Westbrooks converting another fine basket before Colin O'Reilly hit two free throws to give the home side some hope.
The teams continued to exchange baskets but Sweden continued their defensive rebounding domination and Ireland were forced to call a timeout with 5:37 left in the half and trailing 11-26.
Sweden were proving extremely tough opponents with further baskets from Martin Pahlmblad and Jonathan Skoldebrand extending their advantage to 32-13.
O'Reilly drove the lane and was fouled while scoring on the ensuing play but could not complete the three point play. Ireland trailed 37-16 with 2:15 to play. After a free throw by Justen Naughton, Thomas Massamba added his tally to take it to 10 with a three pointer with 50 seconds left.
Larranaga hit both this free throws before Levin responed with a drive through the lane and a circus shot with 5 seconds left. Larranaga was unable to hi the buzzer shot and Ireland saw themselves down twenty at half, 20-40.
Sweden started the second half off on the same beat as Kjeubom scored on the opening possession. Jason Killeen scored on another hook shot at the 7:30 mark. Conor Grace picked up his fourth personal foul and was forced to take a seat with still 6:12 left in the third. Ian O'Boyle scored his first points of the day when he hit a three pointer with 1:30 left to bring the score to 33-50. Aaron Westbrooks hit one of two free throws at the end of the third quarter, bringing the score to 36-51.
Levin drove the lane and made his lay-up as he was fouled in the early stages of the fourth quarter. He completed the three point play with his free throw. Issac Westbrook hit an outside jumper for two more points for Ireland. The foul trouble continued for the Irish as Aaron Westbrooks picked up his 4th foul with eight minutes remaining.
Killeen had a nice rebound and a dunk at the 2:30 mark which gave Ireland some spirit back. A three pointer by Ringstrom with one minute left put Sweden up 21 with a score of 44-65. The game ended with the Irish losing 50-66.
Ireland Senior Men's captain, Conor Grace:
"We are very frustrated,
"We came out really slow and unfortunately we had just too much ground to make up.
"We actually defended really well in the first quarter but just couldn't get the points on the board.
"We have got to improve from this, it is a bad day but we have three games left and I believe we can still make an impression. We have some guys making their debut today and hopefully they will have taken a lot from playing a team like Sweden."