Notre Dame now alone at the top

 

Notre Dame have taken pole position in the ESB League after a hectic weekend of fixtures split the three-way tie at the top and created some shock results for a host of the main title contenders.

Before yesterday, Waterford and Tralee were the only teams to remain unbeaten after the opening three weeks. But Notre Dame's 80-73 win over visitors Waterford ended the first half of that story.

It was billed as the game of the weekend and it delivered. In fact, both teams were neck and neck until the final half-minute when Notre Dame's Brandon Hughes hit five from six free-throws to finally clinch the points.

But it was a just result, as the Dublin team had led 44-35 at the half as Hughes, Lennie McMillan and player-coach Anthony Jenkins kept the momentum in their direction from the start.

A superb third-quarter, however, brought Waterford back into the game. Their confidence was on a high after defeating title-holders Neptune during the week and the combination scoring of Eric Blair and Stacey Messiah brought the score back to 4845 after just four minutes of the quarter.

Despite Messiah ending with a game-high of 31 points, they couldn't quite put Notre Dame out of reach even with a brief lead towards the end.

On Saturday, Notre Dame had picked up two more points with a far more comfortable 92-56 win over St Paul's Killarney. Hughes was once again to the fore with 21 points.

Elsewhere, Sligo picked up their first points of the season yesterday at the expense of Tralee - thus handing the Kerry side their only defeat since returning to the top flight this season.

Former Ivy-League standout Scott "Big Mac" McCarthy produced a truly veteran performance in spurring Sligo to sneak the 78-75 win when it appeared that Tralee were certain of the points.

Leading 44-38 at the half, John Teahan was proving most effective for Tralee and the margin hovered around 12 points in their favour for most of the final two quarters.

With just three minutes to go, however, Mike Trimmer helped put Sligo in front for the first time and they maintained that narrow lead until the end.

The Clare Jets are experiencing the worst possible start to the season, and on Saturday fell to a much-improved Killester 90-58.

They held a marginal advantage in the early stages, but, with Eric Jackson and John Leahy on fire, Killester soon took over to complete their most convincing win so far.

No such return to form for Neptune, however, as they once again fell to the less-fancied Saints 104-88. In what was largely a scrappy game, the titleholders never got to grips with the Saints' new American signing Pierre Shuttlesworth and his 33 points made sure the points went to the Dublin team.

Tolka Rovers, defending champions in the women's league, suffered their first defeat of the season when they went down 6750 to the Meteors on Saturday.

Karen Hennessy once again played a starring role, but top scorer of the game was Neassa O'Keeffe with 67 points.

The Wildcats now top the table after making it two wins from two with the 61-50 victory over the University of Limerick.