Inside Basketball: Neptune's slide continues, Ballincollig continue to fly under-the-radar

National Cup quarter-finals: Neptune disappoint, Eanna look offensively sharp, Ballincollig motoring nicely
Inside Basketball: Neptune's slide continues, Ballincollig continue to fly under-the-radar

QUICKSAND: Jordan Blount, Energywise Ireland Neptune, Kristijan Andabaka, Neil Lynch and Joshua Wilson, DBS Eanna. Pic: Jim Coughlan.

DBS Eanna eliminate Neptune. 

DBS Eanna’s impressive season continued as they eliminated one of the pre-season cup favourites Energywise Neptune 97-93 in Cork. It was Eanna’s second win in recent weeks in Neptune Stadium and they are growing momentum into the team to beat this season. Darren McGovern’s squad have a deep and balanced attack and what was most impressive about their performance was their ability to be patient and find the right matchup to attack consistently. They got great looks at the basket all game and it’s going to take a strong defence to take away all of their options.

Mark Reynolds. 

In the first win against Neptune, Marko Tomic ran the show for DBS Eanna with 19 points and 9 assists. With Tomic out, Eanna needed someone else to provide an inside presence, and Mark Reynolds was that man. His 18 points were a season-high and the early first-quarter points were particularly important as Eanna trailed 19-6. Coaches of any big man in the country should be showing Reynolds to their players. To me what sets apart pro players from good amateurs is their willingness to do the right thing every time and to not go outside of their skillset. Reynolds does everything you would want a big man to do for you and does so without much fanfare. At almost 39 years old he deserves another shot at cup glory in January.

So Neptune’s slide continues? 

Neptune will be hugely disappointed to let slip a home quarter final and there will be a period of reflection as they have now lost three of their last four games. Injuries have certainly caused an impact but it’s rare that any team is fully healthy during a Super League season. Another dynamic guard has been the one thing I’ve stressed over recent weeks and the frustration will be there that an ideal piece for them, Sean Jenkins, was on the visiting team on Saturday night. Jenkins looked comfortable back at home in Neptune Stadium scoring 18 points, and the former Neptune underage star would be an ideal option for the Cork side. The success of Neptune’s talent development means that many of their players have gone abroad and not all have come home to them after being in the States. If they can get Jenkins or Conor O’Sullivan back next year it would go a long way to address their issues.

Maree’s Irish contingent show mettle. 

On the Irish Examiner All-Net podcast last week I said for any team to win a trophy in Ireland they need to have Irish players step up in tough situations. I wondered who for Maree would be that person and if it would be Eoin Rockall. The emphatic answer came on Saturday night as Maree trailed Belfast Star 58-47 with just under five minutes to go in the third quarter. What followed was one of the most impressive five minutes I’ve seen by an Irish player, as Rockall had his hands on everything positive for the University of Galway team. Three assists, five points and multiple trips to the free throw line helped swing the game and when Stephen Cummins scored a layup on the buzzer of the third the Galwaymen had regained control of the game and led 66-63. Rockall and Cummins combined for 32 points including 20 in the decisive second half. The first major test has been answered and Maree are heading back to the semi-final weekend courtesy of a 92-77 win.

Unsung heroes. 

Over the course of the season, players can step up and deliver big performances despite not being a big week-to-week contributor. For University of Galway Maree, Jarrett Haines has been their dominant American player, so their other American Zach Light often gets very limited opportunities. With Eoin Rockall running the team well and Shon Briggs causing so many problems on the other end, Coach Charlie Crowley had to find a solution on Saturday. Light, at 6’3, had more size to offer defensively against Briggs and his 10 points on the offensive end came as a bonus. In just 16 minutes of play, Light had an incredible +/- of +23 and was a major factor in Maree’s second half revival. It may not be headline-grabbing but having role players ready to come in is invaluable over the course of the season.

Wildcats top Liffey Celtics 91-86. 

Last year Waterford Wildcats were disappointed at the semi-final stage last year in a poor performance against DCU Mercy. With Karli Seay, they look like they have an offensive spark that could take them further this year. On the road leading by one going into the second quarter, Seay helped Wildcats open up a ten-point lead with seven of her 28 points. Waterford have been built on strong defence for a number of seasons and if Seay can help unlock some more of their offence, they will be a very dangerous proposition. For Liffey Celtics, despite losing, it was further evidence that they aren’t far from the top table and Coach Karl Kilbride will be focusing on a push for the playoffs now where his team could still cause a lot of issues.

Emporium Cork Basketball outgun Killester 74-62 

Killester were ultimately outdone by the same issues that have plagued them in recent weeks. Gregario Adon and Paul Dick combined for 46 but no other player was able to contribute more than six. Killester have arguably the best Irish player (Dick) and Bosman (Adon) in the league but without either Tomas Fernandez upping his contributions, or them bringing in a more offensively-minded American than Conroy Baltimore, they won’t be able to beat the top teams. For Emporium Cork Basketball (Ballincollig) it was another solid performance and they will be happy that they are flying slightly under the radar so far this year. That won’t last for long though as the winner of their semi final with DBS Eanna will likely be the favourites for the Cup.

Daniel Jokubaitis Tralee Warriors and Adrian O'Sullivan Emporium Cork (White).
Daniel Jokubaitis Tralee Warriors and Adrian O'Sullivan Emporium Cork (White).

Meteors set up rematch with DCU Mercy. 

Trinity Meteors were challenged by Ulster University but were able to pass the test comfortably 75-67 to set up a semi-final with DCU Mercy, the only team to have beaten them in the league so far this season. Meteors had Dayna Finn limited to just six points Sarah Kenny’s 18 points led the way. If Kenny can consistently get to double figures for Meteors it will be hard for any team to match them. DCU Mercy lie in wait in the semi-final after their dominant display over i3pt Fr Mathews. This will be one of the must-watch matchups of the Cup semi-final weekend in January.

St Vincent’s earn revenge over UCD. 

As we’ve said before, Vincent’s American Donovan Fields is a different proposition when playing at home and him winning the scoring battle with Jon Jean meant that UCD Marian had little chance of progressing. The key to the game was the second quarter when Marian only managed three field goals and were outscored 24-11 as Vincent’s flexed their muscles defensively. Vincent’s were well worth their 93-75 win but will now go in as underdogs against Maree in January. Despite that status, with Fields and Stefan Zecevic they have two big game players who can potentially help them cause an upset.

Youth v Experience.

It’s interesting that the men’s and women’s game has such a disparity this season when it comes to young players making an impact. Every team in the last eight of the Women’s Super League had a player under the age of 24 who scored at least eight points. On the men’s side only one single player under 24 achieved eight or more points in the quarter finals. That player Robert Graham for St Vincent’s played for the Irish U20 team last summer but grew up and was developed in the UK. There are lots of reasons for the disparity, particularly with so many European imports and more males playing in the States at the moment but it’s still noteworthy how two leagues within the same ecosystem can be so different.

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