Tradehouse Central Ballincollig 78 C & S Neptune 69
TRADEHOUSE Central Ballincollig drove on in the fourth quarter against C & S Neptune to secure maximum points in their first-ever game at Super League level.
This was a dogfight in Ballincollig Community School, below elite standard as Neptune’s inability to score in the second half allowed their Cork rivals to secure the bragging rights. Both will need to improve to be in contention this season, but that will matter less for now to Kieran O'Sullivan's side.
The opening exchanges were scrappy and although the Ballincollig American Andre Nation started with a basket in the opening minute he struggled for long periods before coming up with some big plays in the fourth quarter.
The opening quarter belonged to Neptune as they scored at will with the Ballincollig defence well off the pace. The contribution of Slovenian forward Milorad Sedlarevic was critical, leading the way from the off and he was the stand-out player on court.
Neptune played excellent first-quarter basketball, Roy Downey, Cian Heaphy and Colin O'Reilly to the fore, and deserved their 10-point lead: 26-16.
The home side needed a good start to the second quarter and with Sedlarevic pulling the strings they reduced the deficit to 30-28 three minutes in.
To be fair Neptune responded but their American Miles Washington picked up some silly fouls which curtailed his contribution for the remainder of the game before eventually picking up his fifth foul in the last quarter.
Neptune captain Roy Downey was influential in this period and finished with a superb drive to the hoop as the clock ticked down, which ensured his side commanded a seven-point lead at the break 43-36.
Some of the basketball played in the third quarter was sloppy, but that was perhaps to be expected, with no action in the league since March 2020.
The O’Sullivan brothers Adrian and Ciarán were below their best although Adrian did tie the game at 52 points each with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Luckily for Neptune Downey finished with a coast-to-coast basket that kept their noses in front entering the final quarter 56-52.
Coming down the stretch some of Neptune’s shooting options bordered on the ridiculous while Ballincollig found another gear, especially on defence, with Dylan Corkery, Pau Cami Galera, Nation and Sedlarevic tenacious to the extreme.
Indeed, with four minutes remaining, Sedlarevic escaped punishment when it appeared he elbowed Gary Walsh en route to the hoop. The momentum was certainly with Ballincollig at this stage though and they executed key baskets to kill off the game.
Although well below their best this was a historic day but ultimately the result was all that mattered.
With Spanish star Aleix Tarradellas to return from injury, player-coach Colin O'Reilly will be hopeful Neptune can regroup.