Portlaoise left the rebel county disappointed on Saturday night as they were edged out in this close encounter which saw them lose momentum in their run for the play-offs.
Portlaoise got off to a great start and took the lead through Alan O’Neill which was quickly followed up with baskets from Peter O’Sullivan and Declan Kearney. Neptune replied with baskets from Thompson and Quinlan evening up the scores after seven minutes of the first quarter. Both defences were on top in this low scoring quarter with Neptune taking a one point lead at the end of the first on a scoreline of 11-10.
The second quarter saw the game open up with both teams setting up a full-court press leaving gaps at each end, with Kearney and Jack Scully finding space behind the Neptune defence and finishing on the fast break for Portlaoise.
Neptune rallied hard to stay in the game and tightened up their own press causing Portlaoise into numerous turnovers giving Neptune the opportunity to control the game. The home team held their heads to take a one point lead in at the break.
The introduction of Pierce Fagan and Greg Dunne early in the third quarter gave Portlaoise a more physical presence around the court. They created their own space inside while bringing their team-mates into the offence. Paul Leigh and Renaldas Bartusevicius benefited in offence as Portlaoise looked to take the game to the home side.
But Neptune fought back strongly through the impressive Quinlan who continued to add to his game high score of 23 points. The immense pressure put on the Portlaoise men eventually took its toll as Neptune opened up a seven point lead by the end of the third.
Portlaoise’s never say die attitude saw them take the game down to the wire with Declan Kearney and Daniel Debosz breaking through the Neptune cover to close the gap once again with five minutes remaining. Both teams went onto trade scores for the next three minutes but with time running out Portlaoise needed to gain the upper hand. With less than two minutes remaining the away side had the chance to draw level only to miss on the fast break. This was to be their last chance to continue their good run of results as Portlaoise sent Neptune to the line where they clinically finished off the away side to run out winners by seven points.
Team Silvers: Renaldas Bartusevicius, D.Kearney, AJ O’Neill, Jack Scully, Daniel Debosz, Peter O’Sullivan, Ger Egan, Paul Leigh, Greg Dunne, Pierce Fagan. Coach John Fennelly