Coughlan C & S Neptune 92 Maree 99 (after overtime)
COUGHLAN C & S Neptune suffered a shock defeat in the Men’s Super League to Galway side Maree at Neptune Stadium on Saturday.
A win for the Cork side would have put them joint leaders, but their overall performance was disappointing.
It was notable that the starting five used by player-coach Lehmon Colbert didn’t include star players Kyle Hosford and Nil Sabata and they looked disorganised at both ends of the court.
Indeed, Neptune were lucky that the Maree American Darin Johnson returned to Ireland on the eve of this game with a chest infection and only played limited minutes.
In mitigation, the home side were also down victory scholar Peter Hoffman who hadn’t returned from the States as his grandmother was ill.
Colbert kept his team in the game and up to the seventh minute he had contributed 11 of his team’s 15 points, but they trailed by three.
Over the years Maree have been known as a good shooting side, but it was the lethargic defending by Neptune that allowed them lead 26-19 entering the second quarter.
On the restart, Neptune veteran Ger Noonan banked a neat basket, but their inability to defend outside the arc was hurting them.
Another worry for Neptune was their lack of power on the boards as Paul Freeman and Keith Handsberry exposed them on numerous occasions.
Each time Neptune threatened a revival, Maree found the key baskets and deservedly went in at the break commanding a five-point lead, 45-40.
Colbert, surprisingly, returned to his starting five for the restart and it came back to haunt them as Freeman stole consecutive balls from Conor Ryan as the rookie looked tentative.
The Galway side looked in total control and following a stunning Oriol Balasells' three-pointer they increased their lead to 10 with three minutes left in this period.
Inspired by a Gary Walsh three-pointer, the home side responded and the deficit was reduced to 65-63 entering the fourth quarter. Coming down the stretch, Neptune played far better defence and a late Cian Heaphy basket ensured overtime was required.
In the opening two minutes Maree, helped by a monstrous Eoin Rockall three-pointer, went five clear.
Neptune, who relied on scraps to stay within striking distance, were second best and they will need a major overhaul for their cup semi-final against Templeogue on January 11.
Scorers for Coughlan C & S Neptune: L Colbert 27, C Heaphy 21, N Sabata 11.
Maree: O Balasells 17, K Handsberry 17, P Freeman 16.
Referees: Catriona White (Dublin), Maurice Thornhill (Cork), Ger Daly (Cork).