National League Div 1
Scotts Lakers v Limerick Celtics
Saturday at 7.30pm
(Killarney Sports Centre)
In America, the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics have been basketball’s fiercest rivals since the 1950s. The NBA’s two most successful franchises have won 27 championships between them, facing off in the Finals on no less than 12 occasions. Their Irish namesakes have a long way to go before they reach those heights but if their last meeting is anything to go by, Ireland’s version of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry could be heating up nicely.
The sides clashed as recently as two weeks ago when Limerick dumped their Killarney counterparts out of the President’s Cup after an OT classic at the Auracle. Séamus Brosnan thought he had won it for the hosts in regulation but his buzzer-beating “three-pointer” was actually ruled to be a two. Unfortunately for Brosnan and the Lakers, that toe on the line proved to be crucial.
A superb showing from Ohio guard Turrell Morris (39 points) helped the Celtics to a memorable win in overtime and the Lakers’ National Cup dreams were crushed in the cruellest fashion. What made the win all the more remarkable was the fact that Cormac O’Donoghue’s team had hammered the Celtics in the league just six weeks previous, Seán O’Brien leading the way with 29 points in a comprehensive 98-73 win.
The Celtics exacted their revenge a fortnight ago. Can the Lakers return the favour on Saturday night?
Last weekend was a mixed bag for the Lakers as they followed up their defeat to first place Ballincollig on Saturday with a comfortable win over IT Carlow on Sunday.
Ballincollig’s perfect record appeared to be in jeopardy late in the third when the Lakers led by four but the runaway leaders fought back in the final quarter and eventually won by five, 79-74. Mark Greene had the hot hand the following day against Carlow (see p3) and the Lakers won comfortably to get their playoff drive back on track.
The Limerick Celtics improved to 9-5 last Sunday as they defeated the Portlaoise Panthers by 96-79. American star Morris chipped in with 22 points, two of which came via a spectacular alley-oop dunk off a clever inbounds pass (follow @AdamMoynihan on Twitter to check it out). Fabio Hernandez scored 18 and former Limerick footballer John Galvin added 16 for the Celtics, who now find themselves in a tie for third, three wins behind the Lakers with a game in hand.
The Lakers will be keen to keep the Celtics at arm’s length heading into the Christmas break but it will take a big effort to keep Morris and co. quiet. If Seán O’Brien can cancel his fellow American out, or at least come close, the Lakers should have enough to get over the line.
Verdict: Lakers by five.