Irish Basketball Super League

Belfast Star 80 Éanna 102

After dominating the Super League for the majority of the season, Belfast Star now go into this weekend’s playoff quarter-final against UCC Demons with big question marks hanging over them after a dreadful night in New Forge last weekend.

With a suspension now facing Tamyrik Fields after his ejection from the game, and a worrying injury picked up by Frenki Lelaj, last Saturday evening’s loss to Dublin’s Éanna could prove pivotal in how the season turns out for Adrian Fulton’s side.

Star’s top-two challenge against Éanna was always going to be tough from the start, finding themselves up against a hungry side who have been improving and impressing in recent weeks, losing only one of their last 10 games.

And while Éanna largely outgunned their hosts on the night – including a massively dominant third quarter which they took by 16 points – things rapidly went from bad to worse for Star when Tamyrik Fields was ejected from the court late in the third after what seemed an innocuous tussle over a contested ball. 

However, that was the second ejection of the season for Fields and he now potentially faces automatic suspension for Saturday’s home playoff clash with Demons – a suspension we are told that will be strenuously appealed by Belfast Star during the course of this week.

But even more bad news came in the final two minutes of the game when Star’s Albanian centre Frenki Lelaj landed awkwardly, clutching his ankle in considerable distress. After a considerable break in play, Lelaj was carried from the court in obvious agony.

Both Fields and Lelaj have been playing supremely well in recent months and it will be a serious blow if their absence is confirmed for this coming weekend’s encounter with a Demons side who have already claimed a cup victory over Star this year.

In the game itself, visitors Eanna put it up to Star from the beginning. They worked their strength and height advantage to good effect throughout and a solid zone defence often proved problematical for Fulton’s men. The Dublin side edged the first two quarters by slim margins, giving them a six-point lead at the half, 45-51.

Then came the third, a quarter that Star will want to forget. A combination of blocks, turnovers and great defence from the Dubliners left Star floundering and failing to get close to landing a basket for long periods.  

With two minutes to go in the quarter, the game was delayed for four minutes as the referees deliberated over the outcome of Fields’ tussle for the ball after a foul was called against him. When the decision came, it was greeted with disbelief all around. 

Fields’ ejection, though, had little or no effect on the outcome of the third with Éanna well on the way to taking it 8-24. Star, however, shocked into action, came out a different side for the fourth and went on to share it 27-apiece to leave the final margin a disappointing 80-102.

Star’s top scorers were Fields on 20, Conor Quinn on 16, and De’Ondre Jackson with 15. The side’s supporters will now undoubtedly turn out in force for the quarterfinal clash in New Forge this Saturday evening having been on tenterhooks all week waiting to see if Fields and Lelaj have any prospect of playing. The game tips at 6.30pm.