Ballina's tenure in top flight is ended


THE long tenure of the current cup holders Ballina in the top flight of Irish basketball effectively came to an end in Kerry on Saturday night when the 90-65 victory for Tralee was of double significance as it also moved Timmy McCarthy's men to within one victory of claiming their first title.

With Tralee's closest rivals Star of the Sea losing in Clontarf, 100-91 against Killester, Tralee now have two matches in which to secure the one victory they need to be sure of celebration.

But from Ballina's perspective, the result in Tralee combined with victories for both North Mon and Delta means that there is now no escape route from relegation. All North Mon have to do is simply turn up for their final two games, one of which is against Ballina, and they will be safe.

Both clubs put up a tremendous fight for survival over the past few weeks with Ballina winning their previous three league games while North Mon made it three in a row as well with their 8578 victory in Dungannon on Saturday evening.

However, Ballina could not continue their winning streak even though they held Tralee to 33-all at half-time on Saturday. Subsequently, they began to miss their absent point guard Paul McStay while Tralee's Nigel Palmer(28 points), Ricardo Leonard (27) and Ger Galgey (17) all prospered as the Mayomen lost the composure they had shown in recent performances.

Star of the Sea's defeat in Killester featured an untypical collapse in closing stages. They led 52-48 at half time and the score was tied at 80-all with three minutes left but the Belfast side then suffered a double blow of having both Gareth McGuire and Kevin Craig fouled out in quick succession. From there on, some poor free-throw shooting allowed Killester close out their second significant victory in a week.

With Neptune surprisingly going down 110-92 to Delta in Cork, Killester now find themselves in outright fourth place in the table having successfully come out of a mid-season slump to give themselves a chance of qualifying for the Superleague Top Four.

the DIvision One Top Four competition took place over the weekend with the surprise team of the tournament, Sligo, who finished third in the table, beating champions Marian 85-78 in the final yesterday. The Dublin club had not lost all season in the league.

Meanwhile in the women's division one, Wildcats ran out easy and expected winners, 83-64, at home to Ballybunion on Saturday to retain the Gateaux women's division one title.

Tolka claimed the last available Top Four berth with a 63-56 win in Wexford while Killester won the fourth place play-off against Belfast, 53-43.