Basketball enthusiasts from across Ireland, Britain and further afield were treated to jam-packed sporting action today as the final day of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic culminated with the Championship final between Towson University and Manhattan College.
Brought to Northern Ireland through a partnership with the Sport Changes Life Foundation, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and the Metro Athletic Conference (MAAC), the two-day Tournament presented some of top basketball athletes from four well-known American sporting universities through a series of competitive basketball games this weekend at the SSE Arena.
Keeping fans on edge to the last buzzer, La Salle University and the College of the Holy Cross commenced the second day of games with four energetic quarters of game play which resulted in a final score of 58-54. Commenting on his team’s win, La Salle Head Coach John Giannini said, “Holy Cross gave us everything we could handle. We were very fortunate to win the game.” Expanding on the warm reception felt by La Salle in Northern Ireland, Giannini added, “My family has been here three times, but this is my first [trip]. I can see why everyone loves the country. We’ve been treated in a spectacular way and you have lived up to all the hospitality and fun the country is known for.
Concluding the event, which saw an attendance of over 9,000 basketball supporters, Towson University and Manhattan College battled it out for the tournament’s overall championship title, providing local fans with some quality, heart-stopping passes and shots and a final score of 56-55 Sharing his thoughts on his team’s victory and time spent in Northern Ireland, Towson Head Coach Pat Skerry said, ”This is the closest thing that I’ve been a part of that simulates a conference tournament that you’d experience in March with great, enthusiastic crowds, and unbelievable facilities. The city of Belfast is awesome and we could come back in a heartbeat!”
As the first of its kind NCAA competitive collegiate basketball tournament to take place in Europe, the two-day tournament featured teams from four well-known American sporting universities from the USA including Manhattan College, the College of Holy Cross, La Salle University and Towson University and attracted thousands of basketball fans from near and far.
Marc Mulholland, Executive Director of the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic added: “I’m delighted to say that the Tournament has been a resounding success. The great competitive action, sportsmanship and fantastic atmosphere displayed here this weekend is the exact reason why we set out to do this in the first place. The tournament offered something Belfast has never seen before and I’m sure has sparked the interest of some new basketball fans!”