After Bord Gais Neptune got the ball rolling with a win Friday night against Templeogue (who while losing, did earn their third bonus point of the campaign) there was a day’s break for Premier League teams on account of the Gathering Shield in which the two Irish All-Star teams comfortably defeated the Welsh men’s and women’s sides at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin.
Sunday then saw a return to club action with games across Ireland.
Up north, Belfast Star continued their hugely impressive start to the season by notching yet another win, this time against Moycullen, making it three in a row for a club clearly enjoying their first season back in the top flight.
Meanwhile, C&S UCC Demons proved too strong for Dublin Inter and kept their unbeaten record intact courtesy of a commanding 24 point win.
The league’s only other unbeaten side, Killester, also preserved their perfect record with what must have been a hugely satisfying, if tense, three point derby victory over old rivals DCU Saints.
Also in action this weekend in the Men’s Premier League were defending champions UL Eagles who travelled to Dublin to face UCD Marian.
In what amounted to a surprisingly one-sided game, Eagles showed their class in collecting their third double digit win of the season.
Meanwhile in the Women’s Premier League, all neutral eyes were on the meeting of DCU Mercy and Team Montenotte Hotel in Dublin, as two of the true heavyweights of Irish women’s basketball went head to head.
In a typical tight and tense affair, it was Mercy who defeated the visitors from Glanmire on a final score line of 58 to 46.
Elsewhere, there were wins for Ulster Rockets and WIT Wildcats over Liffey Celtics and Meteors respectively.
Men’s Premier League
DCU Saints 81 – Killester 84
In a game that had all the elements that make basketball such an exciting and thrilling sport, Killester and DCU Saints played out a thrilling 81 to 84 contest Sunday afternoon in the DCU Sports Complex.
A huge three pointer from Eoin Quill with two minutes remaining seemed to have given Saints the momentum to go on and win the game before the superb Michael Bonaparte answered with seven of his game high 39 points to seal the game for Killester.
Saints could only manage a late lay-up from Eoin Darling as a response and will feel heartbroken to lose on a final score line of 81 to 84.
Killester improve to four wins and no losses and sit atop the Premier League table on twelve points.
Dublin Inter 65 – C&S UCC Demons 89
C&S UCC Demons kept up their undefeated start to the 2013/14 season under new player/coach Colin O’Reilly by easily disposing of Dublin Inter by a comfortable 24 point margin.
The win makes it a perfect three from three for O’Reilly’s charges, one week ahead of their much anticipated local derby with historic rivals Bord Gais Neptune.
A featured of O’Reilly’s coaching so far this season has been his use of the bench and Sunday was once again no exception, with 11 players seeing court time for Demons.
Leading the way for Demons was inside American player Lehmon Colbert who finished the game with a double double of 21 points and 10 rebounds, a statistical line made all the more impressive when Dublin Inter’s vaunted front line of Mindaugas Tamusauskas and Aurimus Statkus are taken into consideration.
UCD Marian 75 – UL Eagles 93
UL Eagles made a clear statement to all pretenders to the throne that they won’t be handing over their title without a fight following a convincing 18 point victory over UCD Marian in Dublin.
“It was a great team performance in a game that we really controlled for the most part,” said Eagles head coach Mark Keenan.
“Marian have an excellent squad of players so to come up here and get this result, I’m absolutely delighted with the effort that the lads put in.”
While Eagles have lost several players from the league winning teams of the past two seasons, an experienced core has remained with two of those, Neil Campbell and Scott Kinevane combining for 32 points in the weekend’s win.
“Those two lads plus Steven (King) and Delwan (Graham) are the experience core and have given the other guys the confidence to step in and play a really important role for us this season,” said Keenan.
Belfast Star 82 – Moycullen 69
Belfast Star continued their exceptional start to the season with their third win on the trot by seeing off a gallant travelling Moycullen team 82 to 69.
Despite the win (which leaves them in the upper half of the table on three wins and one loss) Star head coach Jose Maria Berrocal was less than happy with his team’s performance after the game, knowing that tougher battles await them.
“We won, which is important but we did not play well,” said Berrocal.
“Sometimes we don’t play like we can. At practice we have been very good but need to bring that to the game. We did a bad job of reading the situation, who was scoring for them and focusing on that.”
Berrocal will have been particularly displeased with how his young team handled Moycullen American Mike Callaghan, who ran riot in the first half for 29 points. Following a frank half-time discussion, Star tightened the reigns, limiting Callaghan to 6 points for the remainder of the game, providing the platform for the eventual 13 point win.
“I think we know we can improve from this and sometimes you play bad and have to find a way to win,” said Berrocal.
Bord Gais Neptune 71 – Templeogue 66
Premier League newcomers, Templeogue, almost caused a major upset in Cork over the weekend before settling for a losing bonus point against Bord Gais Neptune.
While happy with the win, Neptune head coach Mark Scannell was under no illusions about the quality of his team’s performance afterwards.
“We did some really silly things in that second half, trying to make the game over before it was,” remarked Scannell.
“We are nowhere near the standard we were at last year when we won the cup and we will have to get ourselves right quick or we could be in for another tough night next Friday when we play Demons.”
Scannell will be particularly worried about the damage Templeogue American Wayne Houston was able to do, connecting on 32 points and drawing numerous fouls on Neptune’s front line, which spent a large proportion of the second half on the bench as a result.
While Houston’s performance was not enough for a famous first Premier League win for his squad, it did ensure a third losing bonus point for Templeogue, giving them three out of four games, the equivalent of one win.
Women’s Premier League
DCU Mercy 58 – Team Montenotte 46
With both sides already having suffered a loss this season to three time defending champion UL Huskies, the loser of this tie was going to be in the unfamiliar position of owning a losing record after three games.
Following what was a typically tight and tense affair between the old rivals, DCU Mercy eventually withheld a late Team Montenotte run to win 58 to 46.
“We made some mistakes at the end of the game and could have done a better job of managing the situation but that is something we will learn from,” said a relieved Mercy head coach Mark Ingle afterwards.
“It has been an odd start to the season where we had two games in the first weekend, then two weekends off and then today’s game so still lots of things to work on as we get into the season.
“This year is going to be a very tight league with every team able to take points off anyone else so it’s important to get wins where you can.”
Liffey Celtics 64 - Ulster Rockets 75
Led by an inspired Kerri Shields, Ulster Rockets earned a superb 75 to 64 road win over a battling Liffey Celtics side.
Shields connected on 34 points for Rockets as the visitors overturned a two point half time deficit to eventually emerge 11 point victors.
The win is their second of the season and will be a timely boost to the squad following back to back losses against Singleton SuperValu Brunell and WIT Wildcats in recent weeks.
The win will be all the more pleasing for head coach Breda Dick as she was without a number of key players including Fionnula Toner and Susan Dick while American Brittney Waters was side lined early with an injury.
“It was the best team defence I have seen all year. The girls worked so hard out there on the court it was simply fantastic,” said coach Dick.
For Liffey Celtics, their search for a first win of the 2013/14 campaign continues but their players must surely take heart from another excellent display that saw them leading at the half and still in contention right to the final whistle. One feels that their first win is just around the corner and its arrival may lead to many more once the burden is lifted.
WIT Wildcats 75 – Meteors 54
Despite a nervy start to the game, WIT Wildcats showed their class in a convincing win at home against Meteors of Dublin, 75 to 54.
Trailing by eight points, 15 to 23, as the first quarter neared it’s end, Wildcats upped their defensive effort and conceded just 12 points for the remainder of the half, taking a 35 to 30 point lead in at the break.
It was a foundation that allowed them to find their comfort zone and with Rachel Roberts and Cathy Kavanagh both scoring well, Meteors could not keep up as gap between the teams bloated to a final score of 75 to 54.
“They did a good job early of driving and finding each other for easy scores,” said Wildcats coach Tommy O’Mahony.
“After that though we got to the speed and in the second half we switched to a zone defence and pushed on. It was a great team performance so I’m delighted to get a third win.”
While acknowledging that Monday’s game against Killester will be tough due to the 24 hour turnaround, O’Mahony maintained the team were excited to try an continue this winning streak that has left them tied for first place.
“It was a very tight and tough game with Killester in the pre-season so I’m expecting nothing different tomorrow but we are in good spirits. It has been a few years since we were at the top of the table we just need to push on now and try to keep the wins coming.”
Killester 45 - WIT Wildcats 54
Just 24 hours after defeating Meteors at home, WIT Wildcats hit the road to take on a Killester side also looking for back to back wins, having overcome Liffey Celtics the weekend prior.
Wildcats took little time in proving they were worthy of the favourites tag they had carried into the game, jumping out to an early lead and led by 13 at the half.
While a late Killester surge did throw the result into doubt for a time, Wildcats never relinquished the lead and ran out 45 to 54 victors.
“It was a challenge mentally more than it was physically to play again after yesterday,” said Wildcats head coach Tommy O’Mahony.
“It was a tough game as we knew it would be and we made hard work of it in the second half.
"I think we came out in the fourth quarter trying not to lose as opposed to trying to win and if the game had been a minute or two longer we would probably have lost it.”