Mens U20 National League – Round 4

Tralee Warriors 103

Neptune 83

Tralee Warriors overcame a determined challenge to secure a 103-83 win over Neptune at the Tralee Sports Complex on Sunday evening. The win makes it three wins from four for the defending champions and sets up a Group 1 decider against the unbeaten Ballincollig at the MTU Arena in Cork on 17th February.

The Warriors made a bright start with Eddie Sheehy and Eoin Creedon opening their respective accounts but Neptune replied and led 11-6 after Dylan O’Rourke and Ciaran Duffy fired down three pointers either side of scores from Martin Khidiri and Emmet Fitzgerald. Warriors took control of the exchanges with Josh Osayanrhion and Brian O’Leary combining from inside and outside to give the hosts take back the lead. An exchange of major scores late on from Sheehy and Duffy saw the Warriors take a 23-17 advantage into the second quarter.

The Warriors lit up in the second after Khidiri and Fitzgerald added for Neptune to blitz the Leesiders with a catalogue of scores that built a potentially game-winning lead. Evan Boyle fired down a trademark three and Olaf Michalczuk followed suit either side of baskets from Creedon with two, Osayanrhion with three and Eddie Sheehy and with three minutes to half time the Warriors led 46-21. Khidiri stopped the rot with a basket for the visitors and Duffy hit his third three but Michalczuk was again in range from distance and two from Sheehy and Donal O’Sullivan’s first of the night kept the Warriors run going. David Bongcayao knocked down a three to edge Neptune closer but Michalczuk had the last word with a mid range effort to give the Warriors a 57-35 lead at half time.

Neptune needed a fast start to the second half but it was Warriors through Sheehy with a three that sparked another scoring blitz and by the time he hit his second major of the quarter the hosts led by 28. Michalczuk and Osayanrhion continued to torment the Neptune rearguard as they pushed the lead out to 75-47. To their credit Neptune rallied and halved the lead by the end of the quarter. Dylan O’Rourke added a nine point volley and a double from Duffy and another good score from Khidiri saw the sides to the final short break with the Warriors lead cut to 77-62.

Like the first quarter Eoin Creedon and Eddie Sheehy added the first two scores for the Warriors but Neptune’s resurgence continued with Khidiri with one combining with O’Rourke with a quick fire seven points and when Aodhan Cooke added his first of the night the Warriors advantage was down to 82-73. However the Warriors regrouped and launched another salvo to push the lead back out to the comfort zone with Eddie Sheehy and Eoin Creedon laying up and Olaf Michalczuk hitting a belter from well beyond the arc. Neptune fought right the way to the final buzzer and Khidiri and O’Rourke continued to find the Warriors basket but it was too little too late because at the other end the outstanding Sheehy and the dynamic Creedon found gaps in the paint to drive to the board for the scores that sealed the deal at 103-83. The win sets up a showdown with Ballincollig at 1.00pm on Saturday 17th February as part of a double header with the Super League Warriors who take on Irish Guide Dogs Ballincollig at 4.00pm.

Tralee Warriors: Eddie Sheehy 30, Olaf Michalczuk 24, Josh Osayanrhion 17
Neptune: Martin Khidiri 29, Dylan O’Rourke 26, Ciaran Duffy 13

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