THIS was a truly magnificent win for Tradehouse Central Ballincollig as they pipped Eanna in an epic Men’s Division 1 national league clash at Coláiste Eanna on Saturday.
A staggering haul of 43 points from American ace Andre Nation, who also blocked Eanna's efforts to drive to the basket in the closing seconds, ensured the visitors came from 67-57 behind entering the fourth quarter to prevail.
Ian McLoughlin sunk what turned out to be the winning three-pointer, while Daniel O'Sullivan and Steven O'Sullivan also made significant contributions.
The Dublin outfit had been unbeaten in 24 league games so the Cork side who were without their injured star Ciarán O’Sullivan went into this game as underdogs.
Ballincollig had defeated them in the cup though and showed here why they were crowned Southern Conference Division 1 champions.
Promotion to the Super League will be decided by a top-four playoff and with one regular league game remaining the semi-finals will be Eanna versus St Paul's Killarney and Ballincollig against Sligo All-Stars or Dublin Lions.
The playoff final runner-up still have a shot at making the top flight as they will face the second bottom team in the Super League.
“It was a big win for our confidence going forward and to do it without Ciarán speaks volumes for the squad,” said their coach Kieran O’Sullivan.
The Ballincollig chief was delighted with the effort shown in the last quarter when Eanna looked to be taking control.
“We had to dig deep but that’s what this squad is about never knowing when they are beaten as we consistently play right to the wire,” added O’Sullivan.
The shooting of Eanna’a Bosman Stefan Zecevic hurt Ballincollig in the opening quarter with the Dublin side leading 21-17.
Credit to Ballincollig they stayed resilient in defence and a late Ian McLoughlin basket ensured they trailed by the minimum at the break 44-43.
Eanna came out with all guns blazing in the third quarter as the shooting of Josh Wilson was awesome and entering the last quarter they had surged into a 10-point lead 67-57.
Credit Ballincollig, they refused to panic and when the going got tough they stood up to be counted.
American Andre Nation basically went on a one-man mission and with three minutes remaining the deficit was reduced to four points.
Indeed Nation’s leadership and basketball skills were to the fore as he nailed 18 points in the closing quarter that eventually broke the hearts of Eanna.
It is highly likely both sides will meet again in the play-off final and if this game is anything to go by we should be in for another cracking encounter.