LYIT got the 2019-20 season off to a great start with a 96-82 win over the Ulster University Elks in Letterkenny on Saturday.
New professionals Emmanuel Payton and Dom Uhl impressed all game scoring 30 points apiece with returning local Andrew McGeever adding 21 of his own as LYIT Donegal ran out winners by 14 points in front of a full crowd in An Danlann.
LYIT started the game on fire racing out to a 16 – 1 lead, Elks were struggling to find gaps in the LYIT defense and LYIT did a fabulous job turning defense into offense attacking in transition with Uhl and McGeever finishing off well after excellent passes by Payton.
Elks started to find their feet and three pointers by Kyle Dixon and Aaron Rooney brought them back into the game.
Mario Garcia came off the bench for LYIT and had an immediate impact, the speedy guard would finish the game with 11 points, 4 steals, and 4 assists in an excellent debut which drew a lot of “ohhs” and “ahhhs” from the home crowd. LYIT were in control and Omagh man Charlie McKinny hit a nice corner three pointer but Elks were looking dangerous as the first quarter ended with LYIT in front 26 – 19.
Garcia was in fine form in the second scoring 5 out of the first 8 LYIT points, Uhl proved he is a force to be reckoned with after doing all his damage at the rim in the first he stepped outside to drop two three pointers in the second including a outstanding four point play.
The Elks balanced attack was causing LYIT problems though as 7 different Elks players would score in the quarter.
Kevin Stanley and David McCafftery had a huge impact off the bench for LYIT in the second especially on the defensive end with 2 great steals and a heads up play to save an out of bounds off an Elks player by McCafferty and a strong drive by Stanley put the Elks in foul trouble but the Belfast side would edge the quarter and close the gap at the half to 5 points, 47 – 42.
The third quarter was a fast paced battle with both teams pushing the ball and scoring in bunches, Manny Payton was pushing the tempo and getting to the rim in transition on his way to 9 third quarter points but it looked like LYIT might be in trouble when Dom Uhl went down hard with a blow to the head but Edjer Akkoc did a sterling job as his replacement and just when it looked like LYIT might build a lead too late three pointers by Dixon saw Elks close the lead to only a single point at the end of the third, 63 – 62.
Elks were playing with confidence and took their first lead of the game early in the fourth with Irish underage international Matthew Rooney and Dixon on fire as Elks raced into a 71 – 65 lead and LYIT looked like they were a team in trouble.
After a time out LYIT looked more composed and a spectacular 2 minute spell from Andrew McGeever would change the game.
The Letterkenny man hit three three pointers in a row to help LYIT regain the lead and the crowd was going wild as Donegal looked to have their confidence and intensity back and with the experienced cool head of captain Mark Cannon settling the nerves and running the team LYIT would finish the game on a strong 31-11 run to end up winners 96 – 82.
A great start to the season but a tough second game awaits on Saturday 5th October when LYIT play Fr Mathews in the LYIT at 4pm. Mathews also had a high scoring impressive win in their first game vs Tolka rovers so it’s sure to be an exciting on in An Danlann.
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