UCC Demons strengthened their position atop the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague this weekend and their closest challengers, UL Eagles, remained in hot pursuit with a win of their own, while Dublin Inter and UCD Marian were also victorious.
The surprise result of the weekend came from Dublin Inter, who ended Bord Gais Neptune’s impressive four-game winning streak.
Inter entered the game confident, having almost beaten undefeated UCC Demons the week before. Determined not to let another Cork side leave with a road win against them, Inter played inspired basketball en route to a 66-55 win, their second of the season.
At the start of the season, many considered UCD Marian one of the favourites to be challenging for the title.
Four straight losses coming into this weekend had put a complete halt to that discussion topic but a win against a similarly struggling Killester team on Saturday may be the catalyst they need to restart their challenge
“It was a very important result for us to get the team back in good spirits,” said Marian head coach Sasa Punosevac, speaking after his team’s 84-61 win over Killester.
“I am very pleased with the way we played defence, to hold them to 61 points was a great achievement but we have to forget about the game now.
"We play Killester again on Sunday and to win twice against them will be tough, we need complete focus on that next game.”
DCU Saints must have thought they were on the verge of causing a second big upset of the weekend when they trailed by just three points to last year’s champions UL Eagles at half-time, with a home crowd cheering them on.
Unfortunately for Saints, Eagles proved too versatile and an efficient inside-outside game saw their perimeter scorer Robert Taylor unleashed in the second half. His final tally of 24 points went a long way to his team’s eventual 16-point win.
On Friday night, a young Moycullen team were brought firmly back down to earth when their quest for three straight wins was halted by undefeated UCC Demons in a one-sided affair in Cork.
Demons led from the offset courtesy of a shooting clinic that left the westerners with little chance. The home team eventually eased to a 30-point win.
“We knew Moycullen were one of the form teams so we knew we needed to come out with purpose and I think we did that in the first half,” remarked Demons head coach Paul Kelleher.
A perfect eight wins from eight games has Kelleher’s Demons perched atop the league standings and he credits his teams focus for the hot start.
“In seasons past I could have told you five weeks in advance who we were playing. This year, all I can tell you is we are playing UL Eagles next week. We are literally just focusing on what’s ahead of us and it has been a big part of our success so far.”
In the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague there were wins for the two remaining undefeated teams, DCU Mercy and UL Basketball Club, while their closest challenger, Team Montenotte Hotel Cork overcame a gutsy Liffey Celtics display to remain just one game back in the standings.
Speaking after her team’s 78-64 win over Liffey Celtics, Andrea Congreaves, head coach of Team Montenotte Hotel Cork said that despite the closer-than-expected score line, she was “delighted to get the win, especially a win on the road”.
“We had control of the game for most of the contest, maybe we fell off a bit in the second and fourth quarters, but in the first and third especially we played some great defence, caused a lot of turnovers and capitalised off all the mistakes we forced them into.”
DCU Mercy maintained their perfect start to the season with an eight-point win over fellow Dublin outfit Meteors on Saturday night.
Despite the win, head coach Mark Ingle found plenty for his squad to improve upon as they prepare for next weekend's away match with Singleton SuperValu Brunell.
“We had a big height advantage but never used it fully," said Ingle. "We were a bit undisciplined in that aspect because whenever we did get the ball inside we really hurt them.
"That said, it was a good win, it was in their home gym and they hit some incredible shots to keep it close.”
Similar sentiments were echoed by UL Basketball Club head coach James Weldon after his team overcame Singleton SuperValu Brunell by just eight points, the smallest margin of victory for UL all season.
“It’s great have something to work on. We play Brunell in a couple of weeks in the cup and this is a good way to prepare for that game.
"They really hustled and played some great basketball. We missed a few opportunities we might normally take and it resulted in probably our closest game in maybe two years,” said Weldon.
Meanwhile, WIT Wildcats made the long trip up from the South-East to Belfast and walked away with a valuable second win of the season when they beat Ulster Rockets 63-57.
The back and forth encounter that witnessed several lead changes sets up a mouth-watering cup tie when these two teams meet again at the quarter final stage in three weekends' time.