Impressive win for Lakers
National League Division 1: Scotts Lakers 89 Carlow IT 84
Despite enjoying a sixteen point lead at one stage Scotts Lakers had to overcome a late rally from Carlow IT before eventually securing victory in a dramatic finish at Killarney Sports Centre last Saturday night.
It was a match where the home side always enjoyed a slight upperhand and looked the better side overall.
Impressive three-point shooting from Brian O'Neill led Scotts Lakers to a 10-4 lead midway through the first quarter. Veteran star Andrew Fitzgerald rolled back the years with a succession of baskets to keep the home side in control and Lakers led 20-16 at the end of the first quarter.
O'Neill continued to be a threat from downtown and he added two more three-pointers to keep Lakers 28-20 in front midway through the second quarter. Carlow narrowed the gap through Armands Vaikuls and Conor Gallagher, but Aaron Jackson was making his presence felt for the home side and Lakers enjoyed a 37-33 advantage at half-time.
The third quarter was all about Aaron Jackson and a telling seventeen point contribution from him in this period helped Scotts Lakers gain a commanding lead. The home side led 50-43 midway through the third quarter with Jackson providing plenty of thrills and excitement for the large home crowd.
His huge step-back three-pointer was like a carbon copy of the famous signature shot of NBA star James Harden and the outstanding Jackson followed this with a spectacular slam dunk that brought the enthusiastic home supporters to their feet. Big Toby Christensen also impressed and Lakers enjoyed a commanding 67-53 lead entering the final quarter.
Carlow coach Martin Conroy had been ejected by the match officials at this stage after collecting two technical fouls. Lakers appeared well on their way to victory with a brace of three-pointers from Aaron Jackson keeping them 81-68 ahead midway through the final quarter.
Andrew Fitzgerald followed with a clever reverse lay-up score and Lakers led 85-73 with three minutes left. However, Carlow never gave up with Duane Harper and James Butler chipping away with successive baskets to claw back the deficit.
Disaster struck for the home side who led 85-80 with 2:05 remaining when star player Aaron Jackson was called for a second unsportsmanlike foul and disqualified from the match. It was a rather harsh exit for him considering that a slippery surface and condensation was responsible for at least one of the fouls called. Sensing the game was there for the taking, Carlow stepped up with Butler and Harper narrowing the gap to 85-84 with 85 seconds left on the clock.
However Scotts Lakers held their nerve and a big basket from Toby Christensen followed by a converted foul shot with 22 seconds left averted the danger and secured a memorable victory for the home side.
It was a match filled with plenty drama and excitement but was riddled with several stoppages and fouls meaning that play dragged on for more than two hours. A total of 47 fouls were called with Scotts Lakers collecting 19 and Carlow were penalised for 28.
Aaron Jackson was the stand-out player for the Lakers hitting 34 points. When he was fouled out late in the game there were fears that his side would struggle without him. However they stepped it up when it mattered with Toby Christensen (20) prominent throughout while the impressive Brain O'Neill added five three-pointers in his 19 point tally.
Andrew Fitzgerald was a huge presence and threat under the boards hitting 10 points while Victor Martinez (5) worked hard throughout on both sides of the court. Team captain Mark Greene (1) made a welcome return to action after injury and will only get better as the season progresses and will be hoping to rediscover his outstanding form from last season.
Scotts Lakers: Aaron Jackson 34, Toby Christensen 20, Brian O'Neill 19, Andrew Fitzgerald 10, Victor Martinez 5, Mark Greene 1
Carlow: James Butler 21, Armands Vaikuls 14, Duane Harper 13, Conor Gallagher 9
Scotts Lakers have a busy weekend ahead. This Saturday, October 5 they travel to Ballincollig Community Centre to play league favourites Tradehouse Central Ballincollig at 4pm. The Lakers have also drawn Ballincollig in the first round of the cup and this will take place in Killarney on October 26.
The Cork side have won the cup for the past two seasons and have enjoyed the advantage over the Lakers in a number of clashes in the past two seasons. Top American player Andre Nation is back with the Cork side again this season and he was an interested observer along with some of his teammates and coach Kieran O'Sullivan in Killarney Sports Centre last Saturday night.
Lakers coach Shane McCarthy will be pleased with the Carlow victory, but will know that an improved performance will be required to trouble Ballincollig in the league and cup. Aaron Jackson has scored 33 and 34 points for the Lakers in his opening two games.
Ballincollig will probably have a plan to try and reduce his scoring threat. Nation scored 31 in the Cork side's 85-71 win over Portlaoise last weekend. The likes of Ciaran O Sullivan, Dylan Corkery and Inigo Zabalo have also impressed for them so far this season.
It will be a quick turnaround for Scotts Lakers after the journey to Cork on Saturday. The following day on Sunday October 6, the Lakers will host Waterford Vikings in Killarney Sports Centre at 3pm.