Men’s Super League 2021/2022 – Final

Garvey’s Tralee Warriors 78

C&S Neptune 72

Garvey’s Tralee Warriors completed an incredible double of national titles by adding the Super League crown to the Pat Duffy National Cup with a 78-72 win over C&S Neptune at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght on Saturday night. For the second time they denied C&S Neptune a major title with a come from behind victory, which at times seemed unlikely, as they trailed the Leesiders throughout the contest only to take the lead for the very first time with just four minutes on the clock.

Unlike the Cup final it was Neptune that seized the early initiative and raced into a lead with captain Roy Downey firing down the opening score from play with a three and Ricaud Gittens doing likewise after Nil Sabata added a double from inside. The Warriors resistance came with a solitary three pointer from Daniel Jokubaitis and when Downey fired down his second score from outside to move Neptune 12 points ahead forcing Coach John Dowling to call an early time-out. The introduction of Kieran Donaghy plugged the gaps in defence and Aaron Calixte, Eoin Quigley and Darragh O’Hanlon combined to cut the gap back to 25-17. Cian Heaphy and Sabata kept Warriors in check with a score each but Calixte and Donaghy with a score and a plus one kept the gap to single figures. A late shootout saw Fergal O’Sullivan and Jokubaitis hit threes at one end and a James Hannigan effort off the backboard for Neptune saw his side lead 28-25 at quarter time.

A low scoring second quarter saw baskets harder to come by with both defences on top in the early minutes but Ron Elksnis opened his account with a nice cut and lay up in response to a similar effort from Sabata. The shooters on both sides then opted to load up from outside the arcs and threes from O’Sullivan and Calixte were negated by major scores from Downey and Gittens before Heaphy moved Neptune 5 points ahead when he also hit the mark from distance. The Warriors then hit one of the scores of the game after Eoin Quigley had spectacularly rejected a drive to the board from Sabata, Calixte kicked the ball out to O’Hanlon in the corner and he made no mistake for a three to cut the gap to a single score. Neptune captain Roy Downey would have the last say in the quarter with a last gasp basket off the glass to keep his side ahead by 42-38 at the long break.

The Neptune dangerman Sabata hooked in the opening score of the third quarter to edge Neptune further ahead but a three from Quigley kept the Warriors right in the contest before O’Hanlon added to leave just a single point between the sides. Gary Walsh hit his first score for Neptune with a three before Washington and Sabata kept the scoreboard ticking over. Roso and Calixte replied by taking full advantage of Neptune indiscretions, but the Warriors were in foul trouble at the other end and Gittens, player coach Colin O’Reilly and Aleix Tarradellas hit six from six from the line to extend the Neptune lead. A late three from Calixte closed the gap to 60-54 at the end of the third quarter.

A quick double from Sabata either side of a basket and a plus one from Calixte moved the Cork side 7 points ahead early in the final quarter and in a game that was so tight it looked to be a decisive advantage. But the Warriors launched what would prove to be a game changing run started by Darragh O’Hanlon with a trademark three followed by a double from Roso and a floated effort from Quigley. The Cup champions took the lead for the very first time in the game when Nikola Roso converted after Sabata had rimmed out in what would prove to be a crucial momentum swing to the Warriors. The Warriors fans were on their feet when Donaghy fired in the toughest shot in the game with a three from the corner and the supporters were in full voice when a floated effort from Calixte pushed them into a 74-70 lead. The All Star point guard repeated the dose a minute later with an uncontested lay-up after a Neptune turnover and with it the realisation that it was not going to be their night. Calixte would finish the game in style by adding two from two to finish with a game high 21 points and secure the Super League title for the Warriors much to the delight of the army of travelling fans who spilled onto the court to celebrate the Cup and League double. It was a fantastic final, full of incident and drama and it was a late charge from Warriors that proved to be the difference between the sides in the end.

Scorers: Garvey’s Tralee Warriors: Aaron Calixte 21, Nikola Roso 13, Eoin Quigley 12

C&S Neptune: Nil Sabata 21, Roy Downey 14, Richaud Gittens 12

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