In the penultimate weekend before the Christmas break, the Nivea SuperLeagues saw nearly every team in action between Friday and Sunday.
The standout result came on Saturday night as DCU Saints knocked off first placed UL Eagles in Dublin, 76 to 63.
Eagles had only lost one game all season and entered the game as big favourites given their recent run of form.
Speaking after the game however, Saints head coach Dave Donnelly said that his team always believed they could win the game.
“I know people looking at our records might have thought Eagles would beat us for sure but I have been saying all year that when we play well we can beat any team, we just hadn’t always played to our best,” he said.
"When we play well we can beat any team" - DCU Saints' Dave Donnelly
Saints were league finalists a year ago and after a sluggish start to the 2012/13 were sorely in need of a big win like the one achieved Saturday night.
A key development in the game was when UL Eagles centre Jason Killeen got in early foul trouble, leaving Saints with a noticeable size difference as the newly formed inside combination of Conor Grace and Martins Provisors combined for 31 points.
“We definitely took advantage of the fact that we were bigger than them. After Killeen went to the bench they tried to go small but we handled their quickness pretty well.
"They got it back to maybe seven or eight now and again but we generally held our lead all game,” Donnelly added.
The previous night, the weekend’s action got off to a dramatic start on Friday when two of the newest entrants to the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague, Dublin Inter and Moycullen, met in the National Basketball Arena.
In a tough and physical encounter it was the visitors from Galway who emerged victorious after a thrilling overtime contest.
Pat Sullivan proved the most valuable player, contributing 39 points in the game including several key scores in overtime.
“We looked dead and buried going into the fourth quarter but there is an incredible team spirit in the group and we dug deep to force overtime,” said Sullivan.
“I’m not sure how much we deserved the win because Inter probably played the better basketball for a lot of the game but once it got close we believed we’d do it. This was our third overtime game this season and we have won them all so that confidence was there which helped.”
“I’m not sure how much we deserved the win because Inter probably played the better basketball" - Moycullen's Pat Sullivan
There was more drama to follow in the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague the following night as Bord Gais Neptune’s Darren Townes converted two late steals against Killester to snatch victory at the IWA Centre in Clontarf.
The final score line of 78 to 80 in favour of Neptune was a fair reflection of what was a tight and hard fought battle, one which Neptune head coach Mark Scannell was delighted to come out the right side of.
“It wasn’t one of our best games. We had 25 turnovers which is far too many and were down 10 midway through the third quarter but we showed great character I think to stay in the mix and come through in the end,” said Scannell.
The final game of the weekend in the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague saw UCC Demons welcome UCD Marian to the Mardyke Arena in Cork.
Both teams came through tight cup quarter finals the weekend before and were brimming with confidence.
That confidence helped Marian go toe to toe with Demons on their home court creating a tense back and forth contest that saw the scores tied with just eight seconds remaining and Marian in possession.
A steal by Demons American Kenton Walker however led to a breakaway basket and foul for the Cork team. After converting his and-one free throw, Walker then blocked Marian’s final shot to secure the win.
“Kenton was awesome today. We maybe didn’t use him enough during the third and fourth but he came up big in the end,” said Demons head coach Paul Kelleher.
“Kenton was awesome today" - Demons head coach Paul Kelleher
“This was a great character win for us and we need these type of wins as we enter begin to look to bigger matches to come.”
NIVEA WOMEN’S SUPERLEAGUE
Meanwhile, in the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague two of the top teams in the game met in Dublin as DCU Mercy took on the previously undefeated UL Huskies.
These two teams have won the last three National Cups, and along with Team Montenotte Hotel Cork, have dominated the women’s game for the last several years.
As such, this was one of the most highly anticipated games of the season with fans eager to see if Huskies could be defeated after 44 games unbeaten.
Right from the start, Mercy served notice that they were not going to lie down for the reigning champions and jumped out to an 11- point half-time lead before a furious Huskies comeback shortened the gap to just one entering the fourth quarter.
Riding the momentum generated from that third quarter push, Huskies pushed on in the fourth quarter, regaining the lead and snatching a hugely impressive road win to keep their unbeaten streak intact.
“This group of players we have here in UL keep on surprising me every week with what they are capable of. To come from 16 down in a gym packed with the other team’s supporters and a hostile environment was superb,” said James Weldon, Huskies head coach.
“I’ll have to look at the tape and see why we ended up 16 down but for just now we are going to enjoy this win.”
It was a successful weekend for Team Montenotte Hotel Cork as they comfortably defeated Killester in Dublin 57 to 83.
The Dwyer sister of Grainne and Niamh combined for 40 points, while Tomica Bacic had another stellar performance with 23 point of her own.
"We had four players in double figures and that was important" - Wildcats' Tommy O’Mahony
Two of the teams trying to break into that top three of Mercy, Huskies and Team Montenotte are WIT Wildcats and Singletons SuperValu Brunell, who met in Waterford on Saturday.
Wildcats continued their good recent form and despite an inspired performance by Edel Thornton for Brunell, the Waterford team were able to hold home court, winning in the end by 16 points, 78 to 62.
“We had a good start but after that the game was back and forth, we would push out the lead and they would bring it back,” said Wildcats head coach Tommy O’Mahony.
“The win came down to us putting in a good team performance. We had four players in double figures and that was important.”
Elsewhere Meteors secured their third win of the season as they overcame Liffey Celtics.