Neptune had to produce an awesome fourth quarter before defeating Dublin Lions in a hugely competitive Men’s U20 National Cup final on Saturday.
The Cork side were tentative for three-quarters of this decider but, inspired by the outstanding Scott Hannigan, they then took full control coming down the stretch to win by 13 points.
What a week it has been for the Hannigan twins as James was named MVP in the U19A Schools final midweek and in front of proud parents, Jim and Sharon, they once again produced the goods on the big stage.
Victory was also another milestone for coach coach Kieran Leahy who has now guided the club to three National Cup titles at this level.
Leahy said: “These lads deserve a lot of credit for the basketball they have produced in this championship. In my book, all my players were MVP’s out on court and although Scott was rightfully chosen he would be first to admit our team is not about individuals.”
The opening exchanges saw both teams play at a high tempo but Neptune were guilty of poor finishing time and time again. Eventually Scott Hannigan got the ball rolling with a stunning drive to the hoop that was followed with baskets from Darragh O’Sullivan and David Murray.
Despite many shots rimming out, Cian Heaphy banked on in the fifth minute which gave his team a seven-point lead.
The Lions then began to find their feet and long range efforts from Jack Maguire and Tiernan Howe hauled them into contention.
At the other end Neptune’s scoring radar was still off the mark before consecutive Scott Hannigan baskets edged them five ahead (21-16).
On the restart Neptune scored a a Cian Heaphy basket but turnovers were to prove costly as the quarter wore on - and their opponents made the most of such errors.
Trailing 37-36 at the break, Neptune’s incredible fitness levels came to the fore and their opponents began to fade in the face of the relentless pressure from the Cork side who went seven ahead (56-49) entering the crucial fourth quarter.
It was left to Scott Hannigan to kill off their challenge when he nailed consecutive three-pointers on the restart. And there was no way back for the Lions. The elated Hannigan dedicated the win and his MVP award to his late teammate Liam Chandler who passed away in 2017.
Hannigan said: “There is not a day goes by that we don’t think of Liam and this win was for him.”
Scorers for Neptune: S Hannigan 19, D O’Sullivan 16, C Heaphy 13.
Scorers for Dublin Lions: F Hughes 22, T Howe 18, R Caverley 13.
NEPTUNE: K O’Donoghue, S Hannigan, C Heaphy, J Collins, E Lenihan, D Murray, J Hannigan, D O’Sullivan, S McCarthy, D Aluko, J Field, D Varma.
DUBLIN LIONS: T Howe, J Maguire, S Langan, A Mullally, O Rice, S Mohammed, H Killeen, C Daly, R Caverley, F Hughes, N Kavanagh, T Ludbarr.
Referees: S Brierley (Dublin), A Statkus (Dublin), C Vandendries (Dublin).
MVP: Scott Hannigan (Neptune).