Neptune seize chance as Star’s defeat throws the title race open

THE shock defeat of ESB Men’s SuperLeague leaders Sx3 Star on Saturday, opened the door for title-chasing Neptune and they seized their chance in style yesterday.

Victory over Hibernian UCD Marian at home saw them join the Belfast team at the top of the table with the comfort of a game in hand and, more importantly, with fewer matches lost over the long season (4/5).

Many felt the exertions of Friday night, when they won an overtime thriller in Limerick against BurgerKing, would have created leg weariness for Neptune but the fans need not have worried as they came flying out of traps and raced into a 19-7 first-quarter lead with Dave Langrell and Kieran O'Brien to the fore.

Marian struggled, but what a transformation in the second quarter as the Dublin team, and particularly Jermaine Turner, came storming into the fray and the margin was down to six (37-31) at half-time.

And the pressure did not stop there as Neptune over-anxiety and enforced handling errors, allowed Marian to make it a four points game within three minutes.

Not for the first time, however, Stephen McCarthy came to the rescue with a massive three-pointer and further scores from Langrell, Watson and the outstanding Michael McGinn had Neptune 10 points clear (55-45) with 2.50 remaining in the quarter.

Once again, Marian refused to lie down and great baskets from Jamie Kendrick and Patrick Glover saw the lead reduced to six (59-53) with 10 minutes remaining.

A Kenny Gamble brace of baskets appeared to have killed off Marian's challenge, but fine scores from Turner, Pat Glover and Kevin Meaney made it a five points match again with 2.50 on the clock.

This Neptune side is rich in character, however, and summoning new reserves of energy, they went on to hold their opponents scoreless for the remainder of the tie.

And finishing in style, Gamble, McGinn and McCarthy got the scores that saw the joint table-toppers fashion an 11 points victory (74-63).

Meanwhile, ESB Cup holders UCC Demons fought out a tremendous rearguard action to beat Irish Travel Partner Saints by two points (78-76) at the Mardyke Arena.

The Cork side started sluggishly and trailed 16-24 at the end of the first quarter and there was little improvement up to half-time either as the Dubliners led 43-32.

Demons game improved after this, however, and there was just a point in it at the three quarter stage. Shane Coughlan was very much to the fore at this stage and Demons went on to notch a a narrow win.

Coughlan finished with 19, Sean Hampton was the game's top scorers on 29 and Bill Romano, who was fouled out with a few minutes remaining, hit 15.

Rodney Gibson and Clive Ellis were Saints top scorers with 25 and 20 points respectively.

The shock result of the weekend was provided by Tolka Rovers, who defeated league leaders Sx3 Star 92-75. Seven points from Kenny McFarland in the opening minutes set the scene for Tolka, who led 23-16 at the end of the first quarter.

Star found their form and cut the game to two points (38-36) with a minute remaining in the second quarter.

And a free throw by Pat Campolieta gave Star their first lead of the game in the final minute, before a three pointer from Eoin Quill gave Tolka a 41-39 first half lead.

Tolka fought hard to finish the third quarter trailing 61-62 going on to gain a 92-75 victory.

The Irish Cadet girls team was successful in the Four Countries tournament in Killarney at the weekend with a victory over England in the final game.

Following a nervous start to the tournament, in which the 15-year-olds under-performed against Scotland, they came back on Saturday to defeat Luxembourg 64-58 and clinched the title by defeating England 66-51.

Ireland had to defeat England by more than 9pts to secure the title.

Three 3-pointers from Shauna O'Connor, along with superb performances from Rachel Clancy and Aisling Dolan ensured victory.

In the boy's, Ciaran McVeigh top scored on 21-points against England and was named for the All Stars.

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