Neptune 63 Portlaoise Panthers 38
A MAGNIFICENT performance from Neptune saw them crowned John Coughlan U15 All-Ireland champions following a comfortable win over Portlaoise Panthers at the Parochial Hall.
The Blackpool side laid the foundation for their win with a splendid first half and they never let up in the second period as they saw off the brave Midlanders in style.
Neptune, under coach Paul O’Brien and assistant Adam Heaphy, are a talented side and they showed their class over the entire tournament.
O’Brien said: “The lads have been great since they returned training and winning this tournament has been our goal all season.
“Getting a good start was also key and I think we showed great intensity from tip-off and the joy of the lads being introduced to the crowd at our club Super League game was a great boost to all concerned.”
Juvenile basketball was side-lined for two years and to have a tournament of this stature returning was a breath of fresh of air for many clubs.
There were 16 teams involved across a bumper day of basketball; they were divided into groups of four with game played at Parochial Hall and Neptune.
Ballincollig made the semi-finals, having beaten Sligo All-Stars, Killester, and Eanna before losing to Neptune by seven points after an epic battle.
The other Cork U15 clubs, Carrigaline, Blue Demons, Cobh, and Skibbereen all exited in the group stages, while, unfortunately, Bantry had to withdraw on the eve of the tournament.
Limerick Celtics were defeated in the other semi-final, after coming runners-up in Neptune’s group, but they couldn’t cope with Panthers’ power.
In the opening quarter of the final, both teams showed great energy at both ends with the shooting of Wesley Delany impressive. A late Dylan O’Rourke basket pushed the Cork side 16-9 up after the first quarter.
On the restart, the trend of the game didn’t change as the highly-rated Justin Raheem nailed three consecutive baskets. Panthers kept battling and a Riley Comerford three-pointer cut the gap to eight points.
When Neptune needed inspiration, O’Rourke showed incredible skill and the title looked destined for Leeside at the break when they led 32-17.
The game was put to bed in the third period when Neptune brushed their opponents away with a display of champagne basketball.
To be fair, the young and talented Portlaoise side refused to throw in the towel, but Neptune looked home and hosed when they increased their lead to 25 points.
It was a case of Neptune running down the clock in the closing quarter as this game petered out with MVP O’Rourke finishing with 18 points.
NEPTUNE: E Kelleher, D O’Rourke, T Sonawo, E Lourgravicas, J Raheem, T Tamosicinas, W Carmody, V Odinhakahi, K O’Rourke, S Noonan, W Delaney, D Brusevics.
PANTHERS: F Stack, R Comerford, J Fennelly, L Kavanagh, D Apopel, P Culleton, C Webb, B De Sousa, D Booth.
Referees: C Edmonds, G Clifford.