THE biggest crowd of the season saw C & S Neptune secure the bragging rights over UCC Demons 91-88 in the Men’s Super League at the Mardyke Arena last night.
It was a significant victory for the northsiders, back in the SuperLeague after a three-year absence, having lost the first derby to their great rivals at the start of the season.
In a game where Neptune looked to be in control at the break when commanding a 54-43 lead Demons battled back in the third quarter and indeed led by four points with three minutes remaining in the game.
Turnovers and poor shooting options cost Demons in a pulsating finale, while their former American Lehmon Colbert, who switched to Neptune last summer, nailed the crucial late free throws that sealed the win.
In the first half, Neptune's young guns Cian Heaphy and Darragh O'Sullivan led the way, while David Murray and Owen Connolly also sunk vital scores, and the experience of the returning Roy Downey made a difference when the game tightened up.
For Neptune head coach Paul Kelleher this was a win that he hopes will lay the foundation for his team going forward.
“We trained really hard as we had lost to Templeogue in overtime away and Tralee Warriors did us in the closing minutes at home,” said Paul Kelleher.
Coach Kelleher believes experience at this level is crucial when games are tight and in the balance.
“You could see tonight Demons moved up a gear when we got careless in the last quarter but look the guys found a second wind and I don’t think anybody could deny us this win,” added Kelleher.
The mood in the Demons camp was subdued as captain Kyle Hosford looked drained after playing the full 40 minutes.
“We had our chance and didn’t take it but to be honest I thought we never played to our full potential. That’s very frustrating,” said Hosford, who finished with 15 points.
Player-coach Colin O'Reilly top-scored with 25 points and American Brandon Watts chipped in with 23 but Demons didn't have the depth of Neptune, though it didn't help their cause that Girts Lazadans fouled out or that rookie David Lehane wasn't used apart from a first-half cameo.