Neptune and Demons serve up a Cork basketball classic in front of a huge crowd

Two star players were fouled out, two were ejected and two late free throws decided a brilliant Super League opener
Neptune and Demons serve up a Cork basketball classic in front of a huge crowd

Energywise Ireland Neptune's Jordan Blount races past UCC Demons' Jala Fam Thiam, during their Men's Super League clash at Neptune Stadium. Picture: David Keane

Energywise Neptune 92 UCC Demons 91 

THE great Neptune and Demons rivalry returned to the Neptune Stadium on Saturday in terrific fashion as over 1,500 fans packed the northside venue for another epic chapter between these two great clubs.

In the end, two late free throws from Neptune’s American Jordan Evans sealed the deal with nine seconds remaining much to the dismay of the Demons fans who had thought they had snatched victory.

I have been covering and involved in basketball for over 50 years and I have never witnessed a game that lasted two hours and 20 minutes. On top of that, over 60 fouls were called by the officials and with two players sent off, which made it a very long evening at the office.

I am not using my match report to criticise the referees but two of them officiated at the Glanmire and Killester women's match beforehand with only 90 minutes to recuperate. 

Back to the game and for the packed attendance, it was a thrill a minute with Evans giving Demons an early warning he meant business with consecutive three-pointers.

Demons to their credit didn’t panic and with American Jeremiah Moore showing nice touches with English signing Kingsley Nwagboso working hard they battled hard to stay in contention.

 UCC Demons' Kingsley Nwagboso scores under pressure from Energywise Ireland Neptune's Nil Sabata. Picture: David Keane
UCC Demons' Kingsley Nwagboso scores under pressure from Energywise Ireland Neptune's Nil Sabata. Picture: David Keane

The quarter threatened to run away from Demons but veteran Kyle Hosford nailed a buzzer-beater three that reduced the deficit to 10 points entering the second quarter. Credit to Hosford he battled as if his life depended on it on the restart nailing the opening basket and although Neptune looked the dominant side they refused to kill off their great rivals.

In the closing minutes before the interval Demons increase the intensity and with Moore excelling with a late basket, the deficit was reduced to two points at the interval 49-47.

Roy Downey (3) and the outstanding Nil Sabata got Neptune up and running but Demons inspired by the immense Hosford refused to lie down. The atmosphere was electric and with Demons fans willing their team on they responded with a Tala Fam basket that tied the game at 67 points each with 1.35 remaining in this period.

The officials punished Demons coach Danny O’Mahony with a ridiculous technical foul and with Downey finishing this period with a dagger outside the arc, Neptune were still in control when commanding a seven-point lead with the final quarter looming.

The last quarter continued to be nail-biting and with Neptune losing Jordan Blount with his fifth foul and Hosford fouling out as well, both teams were weakened in the closing period.

On top of this when the game was on a knife-edge Downey and Scott Hannigan were sent off for a bit of off-the-ball handbags.

When Kevin Moynihan, an All-Ireland U20 hurling medalist, won a tremendous rebound and followed up with a stunning jumper Demons led by the minimum with 20 seconds remaining. Moynihan was then punished for a dubious foul coming off a screen on Evans 11 seconds later as the American showed coolness personified to nail both.

Demons had one more chance to win the game but Moore went to the hoop and lost control as the final buzzer saw the Stadium erupt.

In the end, both teams should be commended for the entertainment and skills produced while Basketball Ireland were reminded that nothing compares to a Cork derby clash with Neptune and Demons. Hopefully, lessons are learned!

 A section of the large crowd. Picture: David Keane
A section of the large crowd. Picture: David Keane

Top scorers for Energywise Neptune: J Evans 27, N Sabata 26, J Blount 19, R Downey 12.

UCC Demons: K Nwagboso 23, J Moore 22, K Hosford 15, T Fam 13.

ENERGYWISE NEPTUNE: G Walsh, K O’Donoghue, R Downey, C Heaphy, A Heaphy, J Evans, X Arriaga, N Sabata, J Blount, C Leahy, K Garcia, K Scott.

UCC DEMONS: J Hannigan, J Moore, S Carney, R Moore, K Hosford, S Hannigan, D Lehane, T Fam, V Bykov, C Cuff, C Looney, K Nwagboso, S Manojovic, K Moynihan.

Referees: Emma Perry (Dublin), Leanne Aherne (Limerick), Ger Daly (Cork).

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