“Any season you are not in a cup semi-final, it’s hard,” O’Sullivan admitted in the wake of Demons’ 69-64 slugfest with Tralee Warriors on Wednesday night at the Parochial Hall. The win tees them up for a January 6th semi clash with Templeogue, who are 8-4 in the Superleague.
“You get a couple of weeks off around now and if you don’t have the cup semi weekend to look forward to, the Superleague games can feel like they mean nothing. You want to win your league games of course, but there’s an edge there now, like we are gearing up for the cup. It gets the engine going.”
O’Sullivan was the engine that purred against Tralee on a night many of his colleagues spluttered. Alongside American Lehmon Colbert, the pair contributed 41 points, but Irish international O’Sullivan felt the key plays were in fourth quarter defence.
“Shooting percentages were way down generally, but in the fourth quarter we hit our shots and really locked in defensively. We made everything tough for Tralee, won our rebounds, and Colin (O’Reilly) and (Carlton) Cuffe were unbelievable down the stretch. Myself and Lee (Lehmon Colbert) got the scores, but the two boys were the winning of the game with their rebounding, their little touches. They grabbed the whole thing by the balls. It was up for grabs and we took it.”
Odd to report that O’Sullivan has played more in Belfast than the Parochial Hall in his five Superleague seasons. “It’s only my second time playing here. No matter how many times you train at the Parochial Hall, it’s always going to be difficult because we don’t play competitive games at the venue.”
Demons (6-5 in the League) have homecourt advantage in the Cup semi on January 6th, with Basketball Ireland showcasing the Mardyke Arena.
“It’s a big advantage. Plus we have a game at home the week before, on December 30th, a rescheduled fixture against Moycullen (5-5) at a time when most teams are off, so that’s a big plus too.”
It’s not like Mark Bernsen’s Warriors (8-4) were unaware of O’Sullivan’s ability to get up the floor and score from outside the three-point line. He shot 29 points the week before in the league game between the sides, but again on Wednesday, the Kerry side couldn’t keep a surging O’Sullivan at bay.
“We made two threes at the start of the fourth quarter, when we were five down. Those were daggers,” said the shooting star, who undoubtedly profited and stepped up to the extra responsibility when his colleague Kyle Hosford was ejected from the game in the third quarter.
“It’s not that I don’t play well when Kyle isn’t there, but I’m the sort who, to be good, I have to dominate the basketball. Kyle’s like that as well. It’s not that we don’t play well together, it’s that I am given more of an opportunity to express myself when he is not there.”
There’s another semi-final issue there — discipline. Demons’ picked up four technicals (one on the bench) in a spiky quarter-final. Homecourt isn’t going to mean much if they give Templeogue that leg-up in the semi.