Star of the Sea close the gap

 

AFTER Tralee's shock defeat by Killester on Saturday night, Star of the Sea took the opportunity to close the gap at the top of the Budweiser Superleague coming from behind to beat Neptune, 105-96, in Cork yesterday.

Star trailed 55-44 at half-time and looked to be on their way to a fourth consecutive defeat but midway through the second half, a hat-trick of three-pointers from Kevin Craig helped kickstart their revival and they regained some of their early season confidence

With Javan Dupree back to near full fitness and Gabe Jackson leading the scoring on 30 points, Star enjoyed their best offensive sequence for months and eventually went ahead 91-90 with six minutes to go.

From there on, they never relented and punished persistent Neptune fouling by converting their free throws to ensure victory.

Dupree had his best game for over a month scoring 25 points while Adrian Fulton on 23, and [Craig on 15 made telling contributions.

Tralee's defeat at home to Killester on Saturday night by 86-77 showed that they are beginning to feel the pressure of being favourites to win the title.

The Kerry side started the game well and led for almost all of the first half until shortly before the break when two three-pointers from Pat Grennell followed by two converted steals by Phil Rodgers helped put Killester in front, 45-42. at the changeover.

Killester's Nathan Frank did a superb defensive job on Tralee's usually free-scoring Ricardo Leonard who tallied just 22 while Damien Sealy shadowed and shackled Tralee's other American Nigel Palmer to the extent that he managed just 22 as well.

With Frank and Leonard pairing off evenly on court, the offensive performance of Hilliary Scott (29 points) made the difference for Killester whose coach. Tom Doherty, rotated eight players consistently throughout the game to maintain a high pressure defence.

Star's victory over Neptune means that they can draw level with Tralee at the top of the table if they win their game in hand. However, Tralee's two victories over Star during the league campaign means that they would win the title on countback if the teams finish level on points at the end of the season.

Third-placed St Vincent's are almost certainly out of contention after losing 101-100 against North Mon on Saturday in Cork. A dramatic three-pointer from Stephen Hannigan on the final buzzer kept the Mon clear of the relegation zone and ahead of Ballina who stay second from bottom in spite of an 86-82 home win over Delta.

Meanwhile, the Gateaux Womens' Division One title looks certain to go to Wildcats after they came back from 34-25 behind at half-time tot win 64-61 against Tolka Rovers at Griffith Avenue yesterday.

Wildcats started well and led 10-2 early on but a period of free-scoring by Sharon and Rachel Kelly took the Tolka into a nine point lead at the break.

They went on to lead by 12 points early in the second-half but Wildcats tightened their defence and began to exert terrific pressure on the Dubliners whose lack of depth along the bench became evident as they ran into foul trouble in the closing stages.

Wildcats went ahead with three minutes to go but a three pointer from Tolka's Roisin Dixon reduced the deficit to a point at 60-59 entering the final minute. But from there on, Tolka had to foul to stop the clock and subsequent free throws from Caroline Forde (2), Ciara Harvey and finally Geraldine O'Flynn took Wildcats to a narrow and nerve wracking victory.

They now only have to beat the joint bottom club Ballybunion next week to be sure of retaining their title.