Energywise Ireland Neptune 82 Sligo All Stars 87
THE biggest shock in Irish basketball this season as Energywise Ireland Neptune went down to Sligo All Stars in the Men’s Super League at Neptune Stadium on Saturday.
In truth the Blackpool side didn’t deserve to win and if Sligo had lost it would have been a total injustice. Neptune didn’t actually lead until two minutes from time when Roy Downey nailed a lovely jumper but that was as good as it got for them as the tenacious Sligo side found the key baskets when the game was there to be won in those closing minutes.
The westerners got off to a great start with Oisin O’Reilly and Jamie Hayes nailing consecutive three-pointers and when Hayes followed up with a basket the lead extended to eight points in the second minute.
Roy Downey did respond with a three-pointer but Neptune looked cold in the early minutes and when Hayes knocked down a jumper in the fourth minute Sligo extended their lead to 11 points.
Ironically the first substation saw Kelvin O’Donoghue replace Downey who had up to the fifth minute was Neptune’s sole scorer on seven points.
Strange sight having only two referees instead of the usual three but it does send out a strong message that there is a serious shortage in this country.
The officials from Cavan and Meath already had refereed the Women’s Super League game between Glanmire and DCU Mercy before this game and the shortage of referees in Irish basketball seems to be getting worse as the season matures.
To be fair Neptune got better in the closing minutes but Sligo to be fair continued to be resilient and deserved to command a 22-19 lead entering the second quarter.
The visitors opened up with consecutive baskets as Neptune looked sluggish in defence with American Jordan Evans 0/7 with his shooting from outside the paint.
Credit to the Sligo outfit they continued to play high-tempo basketball and their shooting percentages were far better than Neptune’s.
In the closing minutes, both sides traded baskets but Neptune despite having good opportunities only reduced the deficit to 11 points at the break.
There is little doubt the Neptune American Jordan Evans needed to have a far better second half as his two-point interval tally is not a figure expected from a professional in 16 minutes of basketball.
The trend of the game didn’t change on the restart as some of the Neptune players continued to stand off their opponents.
Sligo’s Irish players Oisin O’Reilly, Cian Lally and Joseph Coughlan all made telling contributions and midway through the quarter they still had a 14-point cushion.
Nil Sabata had a very poor game in the offensive court and up to the 27th minute had only amassed eight points and in one play he had the opportunity to score a layup but decided to kick the ball out for a player to shoot outside the paint.
Neptune did rally in the closing minutes of the quarter and when Xabier Arriaga nailed a three-pointer with a minute remaining the deficit was reduced to five points. Amazingly another monstrous shot outside the paint by victory scholar Keonn Scott had the crowd in rapture but a late Lally basket ensured Sligo led 60-56 entering the crucial quarter.
On the restart, the visitors began getting into foul trouble with Neptune chipping away at the lead and a superb Arriaga three-pointer brought his tally to 16 points to tie the game at 75 points each with three minutes remaining.
The home side did get their noses in front a minute later from a Downey basket but Sligo had the bottle for the battle.
Tom Child took the game by the scruff of the neck and scored six points when his team needed inspiration and in the end the westerners were deserving and worthy winners.
R Downey 19, X Arriaga 19, J Blount 13, C Heaphy 11.
G Poleon 17, O O’Reilly 16, J Hayes 14, C Lally 13, T Child 12.
A Immers (Meath), L Podolsak (Cavan).