A BUSY weekend lies in store for Belfast Star as they host a doubleheader at La Salle Sports Hall on Saturday and Sunday.
First up on Saturday is Bright DCU Saints (tip-off 6.30pm) with Adrian Fulton's side aiming to make it three wins on the spin following their impressive home win over Killester last Saturday evening that has pushed them up into second place in the North Conference behind DBS Éanna who they sit nine points behind, but having played a game less.
Saints are at the opposite end of the standings having won just one game this season, that coming back in mid-December and last week were defeated by UCD Marian.
The expectation is that Belfast Star will get the weekend off to a winning start, but nobody at the club is taking anything for granted according to Fulton.
“We have the utmost respect for DCU Saints," insists Star's head coach.
"They are in a rebuilding phase so are able to come and play with freedom. We know they have plenty of talent on their roster. They are our focus. If we get ahead of ourselves and look at Neptune, then we could come unstuck very easily."
Star won the corresponding fixture in October 67-59 and after for up-and-down form towards the end of last year, have started to show consistency since they got back on the court a fortnight ago.
Saints may be underdogs in this game, but they will still travel to Belfast with confidence and will take encouragement from the close nature of the earlier meeting.
“We are looking forward to meeting Belfast Star - we played them earlier in the season and it was very good game. They have improved so we are expecting and preparing for that," said Gareth Winders, head coach.
"They are coached by a top coach and no doubt will be looking for improvements in their own game since we last met. We can only focus on ourselves as we have been and will continue to do this season."
There will be little time to reflect on this game for the Belfast team as they are straight back down to action again on Sunday afternoon as C&S Neptune make the long journey north for the second leg of their own weekend doubleheader (3pm tip-off).
The Cork club host Moycullen on Saturday and will hope to have improved their mid-ranking in the South Conference and booked a playoff sport by the time they head back to Leeside on Sunday evening.
"Sunday’s game against Belfast Star gives us a chance to test ourselves against a current top two team in North conference," said head coach and player Colin O’Reilly.
"They are always one of the toughest teams to prepare for, who have a nice blend of Irish players and imports."
The return from injury of Liam Pettigrew and addition of US import Shon Briggs has bolstered Belfast Star, and regardless of what happens on Saturday they will be tested physically and mentally given they play their second game of the weekend less than 24 hours later.
"Neptune are coming off the back of a huge road win (at NUIG Maree) and are as good as any team in the country," added Star coach, Fulton.
"Colin (O’Reilly) is a top-class coach and we will have our hands full with them on Sunday.”
In Division One on Saturday, Ulster University host McGowan’s Tolka Rovers in Jordanstown at 5pm, while UU's women are in action at the same tie and venue on Sunday when they welcome Phoenix Rockets.