Dublin Lions’ Neill Kavanagh lays up during last Saturday’s final. Picture: Martin Doherty

Basketball Ireland Under-20 National Cup Final
Dublin Lions 65
Neptune 78

DUBLIN Lions’ first national cup final saw them come unstuck at the hands of an outstanding Neptune side in the men’s Under-20 decider last weekend at the National Basketball Arena.

A dominant display from MVP Scott Hannigan, coupled with the experience and talent of Darragh O’Sullivan, David Murray and Cian Heaphy, saw them home to glory.

Nonetheless, it has been a breakthrough run for the Clondalkin club this year, reaching this stage to show the level of talent being developed in the club.

Neptune had the better of the early exchanges, opening up a lead thanks to good scoring from Hannigan, Heaphy and David Murray.

Lions settled and Tiernan Howe, Rian Caverly and Jack Maguire began to assert their authority on the game, to close the gap back, and at the end of the first, Neptune held a 21-16 point lead.

A fast-paced, high intensity second quarter followed. Heaphy burst up the court for a huge dunk while Jake Collins, Hannigan and Murray chipped in.

Lions upped the defensive pressure in style and it soon began to pay dividends, as with just under four minutes to go they had forced turnovers and reaped rewards courtesy of Finn Hughes, Howe and Caverly, and a massive score from Hughes saw it back to just one point at half time, Neptune leading 37-36.

A brilliant showcase of basketball continued in the third quarter, with huge work by Murray, Heaphy and O’Sullivan for Neptune seeing them driving at Lions at every turn.

By the midway point, they had stretched the lead back out to five. Lions were not giving up though, and Hughes and Howe continued to shine bright for them, with Hughes netting some massive scores to bring the game right back into the melting pot.

A big push at the end of the quarter from the Cork side saw them push back out in front though at the end of the third, leading 56-49.

The Hannigans took over the early exchanges of the fourth with two dagger three-pointers from Scott shooting Neptune further into the lead.

Huge defense once more from the stand-out Murray continued to keep the threat of a slick Lions offense at bay.

Hughes continued to dominate for Lions, finishing the game out with a double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds, but Neptune’s superiority in transition, coupled with 26 points from turnovers, was the difference on the day, and they were crowned champions on a final score of 78-65.