C & S Neptune 78 Tradehouse Central Ballincollig 90
A BRILLIANT third quarter from Tradehouse Central Ballincollig gave them the Cork derby victory over hosts C & S Neptune on Saturday night.
The Southern Conference champions took a while to get going but once they did, led by Adrian O'Sullivan and Andre Nation, they never looked like losing. They now have one more regular-season game to go before they're at home for the play-off quarter-final.
Neptune will also compete at the business end of the league but have work to do. They were the dominant side in the first half though, until the Collig reduced the deficit from 11 points to a mere two in the space of the two minutes before the interval.
Scoring a mere seven points in the third quarter cost Neptune dearly, though some of their shooting options were ridiculous.
It was a busy day for O'Sullivan, who earlier in the day was coaching the club's U14s to an overtime win over Blue Demons at Parochial Hall. A true club man.
Leading 68-56 going into the fourth quarter, Kieran O'Sullivan's side never relinquished control again. Ballincollig's defence, their trademark in a season where they've only lost twice, once in the league and once in the cup, both times away to Tralee Warriors, was stringent in the second half.
Along with O'Sullivan and Nation, who was the February Super League Player of the Month, Dylan Corkery was a warrior and he held them together when Neptune were on top.
Roy Downey, after his excellent performance for Ireland, nailed three free throws in their opening possession before Nation and O’Sullivan replied with consecutive baskets.
The tempo of the game was fast and furious but Neptune’s defending was awful, allowing three unchallenged lay-ups: 13-10 after six minutes.
The stadium erupted when Nation slam-dunked in the next possession. American Richaud Gittens nailed a huge three-pointer with a minute remaining in the quarter. He did the same with seconds to go and the Blackpool outfit led 22-14 heading into the second period.
Gittens was certainly in the mood for entertaining and he produced a stunning dunk on the restart that thrilled the Neptune faithful.
The outstanding Dylan Corkery grabbed consecutive baskets to reduce the deficit to 26-20 before Cian Heaphy showed his talent with a basket and a classy three as Neptune restored their 10-point lead.
At one stage we had five consecutive scores from beyond the arc but the intensity in defence was lacking from both sides. Neptune remained on top and with 2.19 remaining to the interval they were 11 ahead following a Heaphy basket that forced Ballincollig to call a time-out.
From there, three consecutive Ballincollig baskets forced Neptune to call a time-out of their own with 1.03 left on the clock.
The closing exchanges were frantic but a late Milorad Sedlarevic basket trimmed the gap further as Neptune went in at the break with a slender 49-47 lead. It wasn't enough.