Lakers lose out narrowly to Neptune

National league division one: Scotts Lakers 79 - BFG Neptune 84

Having enjoyed a comfortable 16-point advantage at one stage, Scotts Lakers were eventually overturned by table toppers Neptune in a thrilling encounter at Killarney Sports Centre on Saturday.

Neptune were firm favourites to win but the Kilarney side went into this match in confident form after a great start to the campaign in the opening two rounds.

For long periods it looked as if Lakers would win this game and they had several opportunities to. Despite the late withdrawals of the injured Mark Greene and Con O'Mahony, the home side started well with Mihail Kapitanov and Justin Tuason leading the way to keep the Lakers in control. Antuan Bootle looked well recovered from a recent injury as he made his presence felt under the boards and Lakers led 24-14 at the end of the first quarter.

Scotts continued to assert their dominance with Padraig Lucey and Andrew Fitzgerald dominating the rebounds battle while three-pointers from Cian Clernon and Shane Horgan helped push the home side into a 48-38 half-time lead.

The visitors ate into the Lakers lead with Roy Downey and Gary Walsh doing the damage to trail 50-47 after three minutes. Bootle was dominant under the boards, and with Philip O'Connor and Clernon also hitting big scores, Scotts led 64-54 with 1.17 left in the third quarter. However, another three-pointer from Gary Walsh clawed it back to 66-63 at the end of the third quarter.

Bootle and Clernon made the big scores as Lakers led 72-67 with eight minutes remaining but the match turned on its head as Neptune went on a 15-0 run in a dazzling three-minute spell.

The Cork side really capitalised on the substitution of Bootle and forced the hosts to commit a series of careless turnovers to open up a 82-72 lead with under five minutes left. Lakers struggled to come back after this despite the best efforts of Bootle and a big three-pointer from Keith O'Grady but the damage was already done at this stage and Neptune held on to win by five points.

The absence of Antuan Bootle at that critical time was certainly a significant factor but the reality is that Lakers had other chances to win this game. A total of 28 turnovers tells its own story as the Lakers struggled to get the ball up the floor and even over the half way line at some stages.

The home side also failed to capitalise on the huge physical advantage they had against the smaller Neptune players with Antuan Bootle, Padraig Lucey and Andrew Fitzgerald all causing problems. Bootle was unstoppable when he got the ball under the board and finished with 26 points.

Mark Greene and Con O'Mahony, who had combined for 36 points between them the previous week, were missed but there were many admirable moments for Lakers last Saturday.

Neptune are unbeaten in the League and are the reigning Cup champions and had recently hammered the Lakers by 33 points in a pre-season tournament.

Scotts Lakers: Antuan Bootle 26, Mihail Kapitanov 14, Cian Clernon 12, Andrew Fitzgerald 8, Padraig Lucey 6, Justin Tuason 5, Shane Horgan 3, Keith O'Grady 3, Philip O'Connor 2

BFG Neptune: Gary Walsh 20, David Murray 16, Roy Downey 14, Darragh O'Sullivan 10, Enric Nogales 8 Shane Duggan 6, Owen Connolly 4, Ian Thom 3, Ger Noonan 2

Scotts Lakers go to Portlaoise this weekend before hosting KSV Killorglin on October 14.