Irish Basketball Super League
Sligo All Stars 106-90 Belfast Star
BELFAST Star have the first of two consecutive trips to Cork this weekend when they travel to face Neptune.
This would be a tough trip at the best of times but will be made even more difficult given that the Leesiders are a fast-improving side, coupled with Star’s disappointing trip to Sligo last weekend.
Star made the journey west on Saturday in buoyant mood after their epic win over Ballincollig in La Salle the previous week and were no doubt hopeful that they could repeat their early season home win over the westerners.
Sligo All Stars never read that script, however, and it was clear from their 31-25 lead at the end of the first quarter that Adrian Fulton’s side would have another very tough battle on their hands for the second week in a row.
Star, without new man Pierre Carter due to sickness, and still without Max Cooper (shoulder), were bound to be even more dependent on Shon Briggs, Max Richardson and the Quinn twins, Conor and Aidan, who have been sparking as a duo in recent games.
Briggs began brightly in his usual manner – 12 points in the first 10 minutes alone – but Richardson was quickly into foul trouble and was kept to the bench for most of the first two quarters, by which time Sligo were ten points clear, 54-44.
With Richardson back on the floor in the third, Star picked up the momentum and a quick surge actually saw them battle back to take the lead by one at the mid-point in the quarter.
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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A home rally, however, then saw Sligo go into the fourth at five points ahead, 75-70.
That final quarter was a stop-start affair with three technicals and several free throws breaking up the pattern of play.
Whatever momentum Star had found in the third remained elusive in the crucial final quarter and allowed the hot-shooting Sligo side (14 three-pointers in total) to coast to the win.
The defeat for Star now means that their lead at the top of the Northern conference is reduced to just one game.
Of course, the ball is still in their court to secure home advantage in the play-offs, but with three tough games to finish the season there has to be some concern over nailing the two wins they need to return to the La Salle gym in the post-season.
Speaking after the game, Adrian Fulton said: “This was a tough lesson indeed but we have to quickly learn from it and prepare for our two visits to Cork.
“While we managed to rack up a big total of 90 points, I thought we didn’t quite play as a team in the closing stages and weren’t able to maintain the flow we got going during the third quarter.”
Top scorers for Star were Shon Briggs on 32, Conor and Aidan Quinn with 18 points apiece, and Max Richardson on seven.