UCD/Marian and Neptune have booked their place in the semi-finals of the Nivea For Men’s Superleague after wins over Limerick Lions and Belfast Star respectively.
Marian emerged from a tense battle with outsiders Limerick Lions and needed a late surge to ensure a 72-61 win at the UCD Sports Centre.
UCD/Marian’s head coach Cormac Connor can now look forward to a mammoth two-legged semi final with UCC Demons, but he was relieved to emerge from their tricky clash with Limerick.
‘It was a tough game in the end, we started well but dipped in the third quarter and it almost proved costly,’ said Connor. ‘We were favourites for this game but we never expected an easy game particularly with the form they have showed towards the end of the regular season.
‘We did a very good job of neutralising Sean Coffey, it was tough getting across the line but the team showed tremendous courage to get through and hopefully it will stand to us next week against UCC Demons.
‘Our objective all along was to make the play-offs, it’s a huge achievement and it’s great to be looking forward to coming up against a class side like Demons in front of packed stadiums in UCD and the Mardyke Arena.’
UCD/Marian appeared to be coasting towards the last four, leading 42-31 at half time, but Lions responded in the third quarter.
However their hopes took a serious dent when Irish international Scott Kinevane was forced to leave the action with his troublesome ankle.
Lions refused to be ruffled and got to within just two points of their opponents, courtesy of Neil Campbell’s three pointer in the final quarter. But a final flurry of points through Luke McCrone and Gary Edge ensured no slip up from the Students.
Limerick Lions head coach JP Nerbun said: ‘We could easily have won this game, we kept getting back in the game but couldn’t make that extra step.
‘Our defence was unbelievable after the half time break and we restricted them to just one basket in the first five minutes of the third quarter,’ he added. ‘We could have been more patient at crucial stages of the game and it was to cost us dear.’
Meanwhile, Neptune have set up a repeat of their National Cup semi-final clash with DART Killester after an excellent performance against in-form Belfast Star.
‘We are absolutely delighted, everything we worked on came for us against an excellent side who are on the back of a great run,’ said Neptune Head coach Stephen McCarthy.
‘We played great defence, we had a sticky patch in third quarter but managed to get over that. The team deserve great credit particularly after losing to Star twice already this season. We showed great fight and are so pleased to have made it this far this season.’
Neptune laid the foundation early on by taking the opening quarter 21-13.
Despite a determined effort from Star in the second quarter, Neptune maintained control of the game at the break, leading 45-33.
A similar pattern emerged for the third quarter, with Neptune’s Ger Noonan leading the charge to take his team to 58-53 at the end of the third.
Star rallied in the fourth quarter but Neptune, inspired by their US duo of Ed Millard and Vincent James, ensured progress by a scoreline of 80-72.