SOME of the best young basketballers in the country were on opposite teams in Saturday’s U18 National Cup final in Tallaght.
CJ Fulton was paying with Belfast Star and Eli Lenihan was playing for Neptune. Both came into the final with huge reputations and both delivered for the respective sides.
Fulton played with an injury, yet still hit 29 points and controlled the game and would have been the MVP if Star had won.
Lenihan, son of former North Mon player Paul, hit 19 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and had 13 assists as his all round play saw his team eventually wear down a very organised and structured Star side.
And while he grabbed the headlines and the MVP award for his 'triple-double' stat line, Neptune had other heroes on the day.
The Lord Mayor’s son, Eoghan Sheehan, was superb on both ends of the floor. While he is not a scorer, his work-rate, defence and rebounding ability were massive factors in this Neptune win.
Sean McCarthy was also incredible over the 40 minutes and could easily have won the MVP award on another day.
His attitude, desire and scoring ability cannot be overlooked. He ended the game with 24 points to top score for Neptune and while others were struggling early on in the final his drives to the basket kept Neptune in the hunt.
He had 10 in the first half, 10 when Neptune made their run to claw back Star’s 11 point lead and hit four more in the final quarter to round off a great day for the young man.
David Varma also played his part, leading by example on both ends of the floor and he hit a vital 14 points. Daniel O’Sullivan ended the game with 10 points and made the game’s most important shot, a three with just over two minutes to play in the game and it gave Neptune the breathing space they needed to get over the line.
Kelvin O’Donoghue will be the first admit that he didn’t have his best game offensively, only scoring six points, but he never stopped playing and trying to do the right thing for his team.
The watching Neptune SuperLeague coach Lemon Colbert could not have been but impressed by the composure and skill set of these young players and I have no doubt they will be figuring prominently for the senior side very soon.