After receiving a #2 seed in the 72nd annual Blue & Gold Holiday tournament, the Irish came in with a bit of a target on their backs. The team opened the tournament with a tough win over a scrappy Crane team but something seemed to click after that game. The Irish took the second game in convincing fashion over class 5 Willard and proceeded to beat perennial powerhouse and conference foe Rogersville in their 3rd contest.
This string of wins would put the Irish up against another Class 5 oppenent in Republic. This would be the first time since the state champion team of 1958 that the Irish would play in the finals of this tournament. The Irish/Republic series began in the 1938/1939 season and the series record going into this game was 26-33.
The Irish set the tone early in the first with the first five points coming from Michael Manzardo. The Tigers didn't waver and ansered with 4 of 5 three-pointers to take the lead and end the first quarter at 13-10. The Tigers built on their lead in the second with the help of nine fouls from the Irish. A three-pointer by Charlie O'Reilly kept their lead respectable and the two teams headed to the locker rooms at 24-18.
The Irish came out aggressive in the 3rd quarter, pressing the Tigers and working the ball into the paint more. The two teams traded hard-faught baskets throughout the quarter but the Tigers scored last with two free-throws to extend their 6 point halftime lead from 6 to 8. 36-28 at the end of the 3rd.
The Irish got on the board first in the 4th quarter with a Brett Maes drive to the basket and brought the game back withing 6. The 2nd half pressure began paying off with forced turnovers and the Irish cut the lead to three with a Charlie O'Reilly 3-pointer at 5:38. Republic added a free throw to extend the lead to four but Ian Cochran answered with a offensive rebound and putback to bring the game to 37-35. The Irish forced another critical turnover and took the first lead since the 1st quarter on a baseline 3-pointer from Jake Branham. The Irish forced yet another turnover and answered on their next trip with a goal-shaking baseline dunk from Iah Cochran. The Irish outscored the Tigers 18-6 in the final quarter to take the win and the first Blue & Gold title since 1959.
The Irish will resume play after the New Years by hosting the annual Hoolihan's Invitational.