National League: Division 1
Scotts Lakers 125
Limerick Celtics 106
Saturday marked the Scotts’ Lakers final home game of the calendar year and they signed off in style with a superb 19-point win over the Limerick Celtics.
Limerick were victorious in the reverse fixture on opening night but they encountered a much different outfit this time out as the Killarney club secured three crucial points in their quest to earn promotion to the Super League.
The result leaves the Lakers third in Division 1, just one win behind Fr Mathews with 10 games remaining. Leaders Ballincollig are still undefeated so it appears as though the Lakers and Mathews will be fighting it out for second, and a spot in the league final, in the New Year.
If Saturday’s performance is anything to go by, local basketball fans have every reason to be optimistic heading into 2020.
The Lakers flew out of the blocks against the Celtics and experienced shooting guard O’Neill drained three early threes to help establish an 11-2 lead. When Aaron Jackson got up for a spectacular dunk moments later, the Lakers were rolling.
Danish forward Tobias Christensen was a major factor throughout and he showed his versatility with three very different plays in a matter of seconds. First, he snuck inside for a lay-up, then he showed his defensive capabilities with a strong block at the other end, and finally he broke away on transition and lobbed an alley-oop that was acrobatically converted (with a lay-up) by Aaron Jackson. This opened up an imposing 17-2 lead and the Celtics were already on the ropes.
Spaniard Carlos Hortelano scored six straight points to settle the visitors’ nerves but another three by O’Neill, his fourth, kept the Lakers ticking over.
New American signing Xavier Talton replaced Jackson towards the end of the first and the home debutant quickly got to work, driving baseline and finishing to register his first points at the Auracle. Talton then forced a turnover and released Christensen for an easy basket and the Colorado native rounded off an impressive first few minutes on home court with a delicate teardrop that made it 29-15 in favour of St Paul’s.
O’Neill added another three, his fifth, to further extend the hosts’ lead but then the Celtics’ American, Kevin Oberweiser, began to cause problems for the Lakers defence.
Oberweiser scored five straight points including a buzzer-beating three to round off the quarter and all of a sudden the deficit was cut to 11.
Christensen completed a three-point play to start the second, however, and with Séamus Brosnan also finding his shot, the Lakers’ lead never appeared to be in too much danger. Yet another Brian O’Neill three, his sixth, and two points at the horn by Brosnan (via a goaltend) pushed the lead out to 20 (68-48).
O’Neill added a couple more from long range in the third and by that point there was no real possibility of a comeback, despite the best efforts of Oberweiser who was in outrageous form. All told, the Montana native dropped in 43 points.
Coach Shane McCarthy gave local youngsters Jamie O’Sullivan and Jack Corridan a chance to shine down the stretch and both acquitted themselves admirably.
In the end, the final score of 125 to 106 (the highest-scoring game of the season) didn’t flatter the Lakers one bit. Jackson, Christensen and O’Neill were the top performers but the hosts also got significant contributions from Mick McGinn, Brosnan, O’Sullivan and new point guard Xavier Talton, who showed flashes of excellence on his home debut.
Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, Talton said he enjoyed his first game in Killarney.
“I thought the atmosphere of the gym was great with the support of the fans,” the former University of Colorado star said. “I was glad we were able to come away with the win in my first home game.
“We’re look forward to getting back to it and continuing the winning streak after the Christmas break.”
Next up for the Lakers is an away fixture against IT Carlow on December 28 and they’re back on home court on Saturday, January 4 when they welcome league leaders Ballincollig to Killarney.
LAKERS SCORERS: Aaron Jackson (26), Toby Christensen (25) and Brian O’Neill (24).
CELTICS SCORERS: Kevin Oberweiser (43), Carlos Hortelano (33) and James Murphy (15).
Pic: Eamonn Keogh.