Irish Basketball Super League Playoffs (after overtime)
Belfast Star 111 Blue Demons 113

Belfast Star’s season came to a crashing end last Sunday in La Salle when they fell to Cork’s Blue Demons in overtime in the first round of the League’s knockout stage.

After cruising their way through one of their best ever regular season performances, Star had finished top of the table and the quarter-final playoff pairings had pitted them against eight-placed Demons.

Nothing can be taken for granted in cup competition, however and it was the Cork side – who had already knocked Star out of the National Cup this season – who clawed back a fourth quarter 11-point deficit to controversially tie the game on the buzzer and send an already thrilling game into overtime. 

That controversy came when James Hannigan of Demons successfully shot from the corner with his side down 103-100 in the final seconds. The referee closest to the action called it as two points but, after a long debate with his two colleagues, the shot was eventually judged a three and the game was sent to overtime.

The game itself was closely contested and very finely balanced for the most part with Star just about keeping their noses in front at the break having taken the first quarter 30-28, and the second 23-22. 

Adrian Fulton’s side then led 78-70 going into the fourth and with less than three minutes to go had stretched that lead to 11 points before Demons produced a mammoth surge to fight their way back to within a point with seconds left. 

Two free throws from Tamyrik Fields, however, seemed to have swayed the game in favour of Star, giving them a three-point lead. 

Then came the controversial call on Hannigan’s shot. Star players had raised their hands in triumph after it fell in and the referee had called it a two. But that decision was overruled and the game was sent to overtime.

Five minutes of nip and tuck followed but it was Demons who emerged stronger as they willed their way to the win and a semi-final slot against Dublin’s Killester.
After the game, Adrian Fulton reflected on the loss. 

“We played well enough to win that game and having been 11 points up in the final quarter, it’s a tough way to lose it after having played so well all season,” he said.

“Hannigan made a great shot at the end and we all thought it was a two-pointer but I certainly don’t want to focus on that decision. We missed too many free throws during the game and that eventually cost us dearly. 

“Our guys put in a tremendous effort over the course of the season and finished top of the League. I’m really very proud of all their efforts.” 

Star had gone into the game without injured centre Frenki Lelaj but Oisin Kerlin and Liam Pettigrew produced great big-men performances on the day. Tamyrik Fields, who was deemed eligible to play after having been ejected in the previous week’s game, top-scored for Star on 25 points. Next were Conor Quinn (24), De’Ondre Jackson (22) and Max Richardson (19). 

The playoffs continue next weekend with Demons facing Killester, and Maree taking on Éanna.