C & S Neptune 103 NUIG Maree 92
C & S Neptune produced an impressive display to return to the Pat Duffy Men’s National Cup final after a comfortable win over NUIG Maree on their home court.
The Blackpool outfit were always in control to set up a clash with Tralee Warriors later this month and Roy Downey was over the moon with his team’s performance.
“Semi-finals are about winning and although we need to improve in the final against Tralee Warriors I think we can take plenty of positives from the game.”
The Neptune captain believes his side have two hard weeks ahead of them in the build-up to the final.
“We know that there is improvement in us and our player-coach Colin O’Reilly will ensure no stone will be left unturned in our preparations.”
The opening exchanges all was about the scoring skills of the Maree American, and December Player of the Month, Deondre Jackson as he shot the lights out for the westerners.
Neptune were struggling to contain him but luckily their Catalonian star Nil Sabata was registering crucial baskets at the post that saw the sides level on three occasions in the opening six minutes.
The Cork side started with Richaud Gittens but he made little impact and they soon replaced him with their other American Miles Washington, who chipped in with three crucial baskets.
In the closing minutes of the quarter, Neptune got their noses in front and with Washington finishing with a superb move to the hoop it gave them a 24-20 lead.
Colin Reilly got a neat tip-in on the restart and they stretched their lead to eight points with a Washington jumper.
The introduction of American Jeryn Lucas for Maree proved fruitful and when he nailed a long-range shot beyond the arc in the 14th minute it levelled the game at 31 points each.
Cian Heaphy was the one player not missing shots and he brought his tally to 12 points in the 15th minute as Neptune led 35-31.
The reintroduction of Jackson with four minutes remaining to the interval lifted Maree and they reduced the deficit to three points following a Stephen Cummins dagger outside the arc with 2.25 remaining.
When Heaphy took off from the top of the quay and produced a slam sunk the stadium erupted but once again Jackson replied with a basket and bonus on the next possession.
Neptune finished the half in style with Sabata finishing with two free throws that helped the Cork side go in at the break leading 53-43.
On the restart, Neptune kept up the pressure with Downey hitting consecutive three-pointers they surged into a 15-point lead. Credit to the Galway side they responded with four consecutive baskets to cut the gap to seven.
Once again Neptune upped the gears and the introduction of American Gittens certainly helped them as they pushed back out to a 12-point lead.
Neptune were at full tilt now and when Colin O’Reilly nailed a stunning three with 1.45 remaining in the quarter his side had extended their advantage to 17 points.
It was 81-64 at the start of the fourth quarter and they remained in control in the early exchanges of this period.
Sabata continued to dominate the post while Downey and Heaphy offered incredible intensity and fitness to get up and down the court. Heaphy went coast to coast and his second dunk brought another huge applause from the home fans.
Neptune dropped their intensity however and allowed Maree back in. Some slack defending meant the margin with 12 points with 4.31 to go.
The Galwegians then reduced it to eight points but Neptune held firm as they can now head to Dublin with confidence on Saturday, January 22.