DEFEAT on the road in Sligo last week was not part of Belfast Star's plan as the Basketball Ireland Super League playoffs come into view, but it is a case of regrouping as they get ready for a trip to Cork on Saturday to face Energywise Ireland Neptune (Neptune Stadium, Saturday, 6.30pm).
The Belfast outfit remains well-placed at the top of the Northern Conference, but will be keen to get back to winning ways this weekend and ensure they continue their lead at the top of the conference and maintain pace at the top of the overall standing where University of Galway Maree hold a three-point lead.
“We knew we had a very difficult stretch of games coming towards the end of the season," said Fulton.
"We simply didn't play well enough at either end of the floor last weekend and Sligo played great. They were full value for the win. But over the course of the season, it's very difficult to always be at your best.
"We have played a lot of good basketball this year, so we aren't going to dwell too much on it. We will continue to work on improving and hopefully, we will be much better against Neptune. They are a very talented and well-coached team. It's going to be a huge challenge but one we are looking forward to.”
With the top four from each Conference qualifying for the InsureMyVan.ie Super League playoffs Energywise Ireland Neptune will be eager to maintain their three-point advantage over fourth-placed Emporium Cork Basketball and fifth-placed Garvey’s Tralee Warriors.
“Welcoming the number one seed in North Conference to Neptune is a nice way to finish off our home league schedules," said player/coach, Colin O’Reilly.
"The fans have come out to see the players in large numbers all season, so we’re looking to put on a performance. The playoff race can go multiple ways, so we’re looking to control what we can and then look to see how other results go throughout the league.”
𝙉𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙇𝙚𝙖𝙜𝙪𝙚 𝙒𝙧𝙖𝙥 🔥— Basketball Ireland (@BballIrl) February 19, 2023
A lot of close games across the National League this weekend. Important wins and a couple of upsets which will shake things up too.
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In the Women's Super League, Ulster University will be at the Mardyke Arena on Sunday (1.30pm) hoping to spoil the party for The Address UCC Glanmire who are bidding to make it back-to-back MissQuote.ie Super League titles with a win.
UU have won three of their six games since the turn of the year, narrowly missing out against Killester, 66-62, last weekend. Head coach Patrick O’Neill says his team will be looking to push The Address UCC Glanmire all the way.
“It’s always a daunting task playing Glanmire, especially in Cork," he said.
"They have been fabulous all season long, but we will be playing with confidence and hope to give them another close contest.”
Sunday's opposition came through tight tussles with both Singleton SuperValu Brunell and i3PT Fr. Mathews in the last two weeks, winning by a point and three points respectively, which has helped them establish a nine-point lead at the summit with three games remaining.
“We’ve had a few hard games these past few weeks and the team has answered all the questions asked of them, next Sunday will be no different," said Glanmire head coach, Mark Scannell.
"We expect a tough game from a very much improved team, but we look forward to doing all we can to close out the league with two games remaining. The effort that this group has put in for the past six months has been incredible and hopefully they can get the job done on Sunday.”
Ulster University men sit in second place in the Division One Northern Conference and six points back on the overall leaders as they aim to narrow that gap when they host Dwyer’s of Cork Fr. Mathews at Jordanstown Sports Village on Saturday at 4pm.