Despite a weekend of tight games, upsets were few and far between in the SuperLeague Cup quarter finals with the heavy hitters advancing a step closer to glory.
The defending champions in both the men’s and women’s cups won their respective clashes with UL Eagles beating Killester and UL Huskies proving too strong for Singleton SupeValu Brunell.
Elsewhere there were wins for UCD Marian, Bord Gais Neptune and UCC Demons in the men’s, while DCU Mercy, Team Montenotte Hotel Cork and WIT Wildcats were victors in the women’s.
Speaking after his team’s hard fought win over Dublin Inter in Neptune Stadium, Bord Gais Neptune coach Mark Scannell was delighted with the way his charges responded to an early onslaught of three-point shooting by the visitors.
“We were down by 15 there in the first half. They shot the ball exceptionally well and when they were making six or seven threes it was hard to play with,” he said.
“Credit our guys though they dug in. We knew this game was not going to be easy and we got ourselves back into it. We had a big run to end the second quarter which left us only four back and that was important.”
Neptune continued that good stretch and went on to lead by three entering the fourth quarter before eventually winning 85 to 79 on a day when their regular top performer Ian McLoughlin was not at his best.
“It meant other guys had to step up and they did. Matie (Rudak), our 17-year-old kid, was fantastic. He scored 13 in the game but nine of them must have been in the fourth when we needed them most.”
In Limerick, UL Eagles survived a similar early onslaught from the visiting team to defeat old rivals Killester of Dublin. After a high-scoring first half that saw just seven points separating the teams, Eagles turned up their defence to push out a lead in the third quarter that eventually saw them home to a 20-point win, 94 to 74.
“We gave up 41 points in the first half which is way too much but when we turned up their defensive intensity in the third we started getting stops, were able to get out and run and that was the key to the game,” said Eagles head coach Mark Keenan.
Eagles can now look forward to another SuperLeague Cup semi-final as they begin to prepare to face UCD Marian who hurdled the tricky challenge of Moycullen in Galway.
Despite being without their top-scoring American centre Pat Sullivan, who was out through injury, Moycullen entered the game full of confidence following a string of good results recently.
UCD Marian played like a determined team however and blitzed the young Galway outfit early to establish a 14-point first-half lead.
While Moycullen chipped away steadily as they found their rhythm, some big baskets from Conor Meany when only a single score separated the sides late in the fourth quarter proved the difference as the Dubliners edged out 10-point winners at the finish.
“We worked hard all week trying to stop Moycullen’s pick and roll and we played well defensively today,” said Marian head coach Sasa Punosevac after the game.
“We knew we had to play smart because the defence against us was very smart, with lots of traps and other looks so we are very very happy to have won here.”
There was only one Sunday game up for decision as DCU Saints and UCC Demons battled it out for the last semi-final spot and a match-up with Bord Gais Neptune in the next round.
The main talking point prior to the game was the addition of senior Irish international and 6 foot 11 inch Conor Grace to the Saints line-up after he signed for the club mid-week. The talking point after the game however was very nearly Demons failure to convert crucial free throws, missing eight straight in the dying minutes.
With the game on the line, Ciaran O’Sullivan showed his class for the Leesiders and nailed six free throws from six to seal the win.
“We showed great character. We lost a lead late and when that happens it can take a while to settle yourself again,” said Demons head coach Paul Kelleher.
“I thought we played the best defence of the season today and it was great team effort, sharing the ball so delighted to be looking forward now to a big January.”
In the Women’s SuperLeague Cup the form book held true with convincing wins for all the favourites, setting up two enticing semi-finals in January.
UL Huskies showed exactly why they are the defending champions with a demolition of an extremely talented and dangerous Singleton SuperValu Brunell team in Limerick.
After establishing a 17 point lead at half time, Huskies continued to pour on the points, ending the game up 44 on a score line of 95 to 51.
The win pushes their unbeaten streak to 44 games and served as a stark reminder, in case it was needed, to the three other teams that UL remain the side to beat in women’s basketball.
Their opponents in the semi-final will be WIT Wildcats who emerged from Belfast with an impressive win over Ulster Rockets.
On the other side of the draw, likely contenders in the league DCU Mercy and Team Montenotte Hotel Cork will lock horns after they comfortably defeated Liffey Celtics and Meteors respectively.
Speaking after her teams resounding 85 to 35 win over Meteors of Dublin, Montenotte head coach Andrea Congreaves indicated that her team were finding their form at exactly the right time of the season.
She said: “We can’t be complacent but are really starting to understand each other and what we are trying to do.
“I am absolutely delighted with this win. It was a total team effort out on the floor. Credit to Meteors, they came out with a great effort and made some good shots. We responded and in the third quarter forced them into some mistakes which we capitalised on.”