Finnies Next Door named Bookstore Basketball open champions
Hayden Adams | Monday, April 29, 2019
After a month of games, the Bookstore Basketball open tournament came to an end Sunday evening with Finnies Next Door claiming the title over St. Andrew’s Products with a final score of 21-12. This is the second year in a row that the St. Andrew’s Products-sponsored team has fallen in the championship.
In addition to featuring senior Mikey Bernard, junior Danny Walsh and sophomore Justin Enochs, Finnies Next Door was headlined by graduate student Liam Nelligan, a walk-on to the varsity basketball team, and assistant men’s basketball coach Ryan Ayers, a member of the Notre Dame class of 2009. Ayers commented on what the Bookstore Basketball tournament means to him as a faculty member.
“Well as an alum it means a lot to be a part of this community and be a part of Bookstore Basketball,” Ayers said. “It’s something I did as a student here; I think it’s such a cool tradition. So to be a part of it is kind of an honor, especially coming back as an employee now. Just to stay involved in the University is really cool.”
The game began competitively as both teams traded baskets, tying up at 3-3. However, Finnies Next Door then broke away behind the play of Bernard and Nelligan, who each scored three points in the first half, as they went on a 7-0 run to build a 10-3 lead. They went into halftime up 11-4 and did not relent. Ayers commented on what he thought set the team apart and allowed them to be successful.
“I think the key of our team [is] that we played unselfishly, we share the ball, we were pretty good defensively and tried to do the right things to win,” Ayers said. “No one complained about shots or dogging it on defense. I think we just really came together; we were one of the better passing teams here and we tried to share the ball, and I think that’s why we ended up winning.”
In the second half, St. Andrew’s Products found more of a rhythm, thanks in large part to the play of sophomore Mike Brannan and senior Joe Huffman. Huffman lead his team in scoring at the half with two points and contributed two more in the second half.
Brannan had the greatest impact, as he was the only one on his team to consistently connect on jump shots. Brannan finished with five points, four of which came in the second half. However, his play simply wasn’t enough, as his team could not cut into the deficit, and they could not build a rhythm, ultimately forced to foul several times to prevent easy buckets.
Meanwhile, Finnies Next Door maintained their balanced play behind a second-half burst from Enochs. He scored four of his team-high six points in the second half, including back-to-back shots from behind the arc to get his team within one point of victory, before Bernard hit one final long-range shot to seal the championship. Bernard and Nelligan both finished with five points, and the latter commented on what winning the championship means to him in his final year.
“It’s awesome. I think it was especially cool winning it with some guys I knew, like my assistant coach, coach Ayers,” Nelligan said. “I went to high school with Justin and then I’ve played pickup with Danny and Mikey forever, so, it’s something special. Good way to cap off five years.”
Nelligan is now the second-straight graduating walk-on to win the Bookstore Basketball championship, as former Irish walk-on Matt Gregory won last year. Nelligan said it was nice to reverse roles with his teammates and have them cheer for him during the game.
“That was really cool. They’ve been here for a few rounds now. I support them during the season, [so] it’s cool for them to come back and support me at Bookstore [Basketball],” he said.
Ayers commented on the mentality it takes to win Bookstore, and how he’s happier for his teammates to get the win.
“I think when you’re a competitor you always want to win every game, so it means a lot,” Ayers said, “[but] more to my teammates as they’re seniors here, and to go out on top is pretty cool for them. I’m just being a part of it and trying not to get hurt.”