Younger players excel as Lakers make progress

Young Jamie O’Sullivan chipped in with 10 points tor Lakers

Scott’s Lakers St Pauls: 71
UCC Blue Demons 92

Report: Enda Walshe

WHILE the result might paint a picture of a one-sided game, it belies the fact that, for long periods, the home side, playing for the first time at the Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre, gave as good as they got from the table-toppers from across the county bounds.

Indeed, early in the second half, when Senan O’Leary drained two consecutive three-pointers to make it a seven-point game, there was a definite whiff of a really competitive encounter in the air.

But UCC Blue Demons’ Stefan Manojovic put any hopes of a home win to bed with four three-pointers of his own in the third quarter and the Lakers could not get within touching distance again.

Ben Miller top scored for Lakers on 16

There is no denying that Demons were full value for their win with Kyle Hosford conducting the orchestra but what could not be hidden was the way the Lakers went about the game as they battled all the way to the end, displaying great industry and no little skill.

It is widely acknowledged that Demons are a Superleague team-in-waiting and though they were slow to settle in a low scoring opening period, credit must be given to home side’s defence as they made life difficult for the Leesiders,

Demons eventually got going in the second part of the opening quarter as the Lakers’ offence didn’t quite mirror its tenacious defence. Only Jamie O’Sullivan and Rui Saravaia got on the scoresheet as Tala Fam and Hosford helped Demons to a 23-8 first quarter lead.

The presence on court of Paul Clarke, still nursing injury, coincided with Lakers’ best periods as his defence and reading of the game lent a big hand. He was central to one of the scores of the night with slick passing seeing Ben Miller laying up, fouled and subsequently making it a three-point play.

And with Jamie O’Sullivan and Daniel Carroll ­– who hit five points in the second quarter – on song, the Lakers stayed in touch at the break, trailing 31 to 43.

The Killarney cause wasn’t helped by a facial injury to top scorer Emilian Grudov who sat out a lot of the first half and, indeed, his influence on the game was never significant thereafter.

Emilian Grudov sustained a facial injury

The third quarter. which opened so promisingly, saw Demons extend their lead to 23 points by its end, despite the best efforts of Saravia who had his best outing to date.

A notable introduction to national league basketball came in the shape of 17-yearpold Luke Crowley, son of Kerry and Glenflesk GAA legend Johnny, and he set about his task with gusto, being joined later by the highly rated Jack O’Sullivan for his home debut.

Baskets from Grudov, Clarke, Miller and two further three-pointers from O’Leary meant the Lakers kept their tempo going to the very end and, on reflection, it can be noted they outscored their illustrious opponents in quarters two and four.

It’s nights like these that the young players learn and the big home support could fully see and appreciate the wholehearted effort of the squad.

UCC Blue Demons are further down the road as a mature team with experience of playing at the highest level. Obviously, there was periods in this game where the Lakers went through flat phases and these can prove costly against top teams.

And again some of their team play, most notably in the second quarter and early in the third, was really good. If they can bring this consistent level of performance every week they will win more games than they lose and can feel justifiably proud of their night’s work.

For UCC Blue Demons Tala Fam had a game high 26 points, Kyle Hosford hit 17 and Stefan Manojovic chipped in with 14.

Coach Jarlath Lee felt his team would be disappointed with some aspects of the game, a great sign of maturity in a squad whose average age is 18.

“We played well in periods but, at other times, we might have held onto the ball for too long and defensively at times communication was lacking,” he said.

He bemoaned the injury to Emilian Grudov which didn’t help matters but he was delighted with the showing of the younger players, notably Senan O’Leary and Luke Crowley.

“This is a process with such a young team. It will take time but we will get there,” said Lee.

Coach Jarlath Lee: A process with a young team

Lakers: Ben Miller (16), Rui Saravia (15), Senan O’Leary (14), Jamie O’Sullivan (10), Emilian Grudov (7), Daniel Carroll (5), Paul Clarke (4), Lorcan Keane, Mark Sheehan, Jack O’Sullivan, Jason Lee.

  • Lakers are on the road again on November 27 as they travel to Portlaoise looking to avenge their cup defeat at the hands of the Panthers while the next home game sees Limerick Sports Eagles visit the Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre on Saturday, December 11.