Irish Basketball Super League

Killester 86 Belfast Star 94

Belfast Star continued their winning ways last weekend in Dublin ahead of this week’s local clash with Ulster University - and a move to a brand new purpose-built court at Newforge.

Their victory over Killester puts Adrian Fulton’s side within touching distance of winning the Northern Conference of the Super League and thus securing home advantage in the end of season playoffs.

But perhaps the bigger news this week is that Star will now play their home Super League games in what has been hailed as one of the top new basketball venues in Ireland.

Explaining the move, Belfast Star Chairman Bill McCotter said that while Star’s senior side is very sorry to be leaving La Salle, the club is looking to the future and to further establishing basketball in the city through the provision of a state of the art court and venue.

“Truth be told, it’s a bit of a wrench to move away from La Salle for our seniors - the court has really been a fortress for our Super League team over the past couple of seasons,” said Mr McCotter. 

“Off the top of my head, I can’t even remember the last time we lost a game there.

“And the people in La Salle have always been so kind and facilitating for us over the years. I’m thinking especially of Angela Armstrong and Donal McIlhatton who have given so much of their time to welcoming us and teams from across Ireland. 

“But the move to Newforge is a new step-up for basketball in the city. It’s an international standard court, on a par with the National Stadium in Dublin, so we’d expect to see more of the very top level games here in Belfast. And that’s great for the local basketball fans who can’t always get to Dublin for big games.”

Meanwhile, Star’s focus is very much on continuing their fine form as the League enters its final few weeks. And they certainly did that in Dublin last Saturday against Killester, one of their closest rivals.

As in recent weeks, Fulton’s side again seemed to be in control of the game throughout until a fourth quarter flurry by the home side brought the final score closer than it had been for long periods of the game.

American Tamyrik Fields put in one of his best performances in recent weeks, chalking up 23 points alongside his 10 rebounds. Fellow US professional De’Ondre Jackson and captain Conor Quinn weren’t far behind, each weighing in with 19 points. And both Aidan Quinn and Max Richardson impressed as well. 

“Killester are an excellent side, but we controlled the game for long stretches and were able to withstand the runs that they made,” said Belfast Star head coach, Adrian Fulton.

“Clearly there are still areas we need to improve upon, but it's hard to be too critical after a road win against such a good team.”

Next up for Star is the derby clash with cross city rivals Ulster University who fell to Fulton’s men earlier in the season. The game tips at 6.30pm and fans are advised to allow themselves a little extra travel time to acces the new court at the end of Newforge Lane.

Meanwhile, Ulster University produced a fourth-quarter comeback to undo Super League joint leaders, Gurranabraher Credit Union Brunell 77-72 at Jordanstown Sports Village on Saturday evening.

The Paudie O’Connor National Cup champions and joint table toppers looked to be on course to weathering this severe test by Ulster after they pulled 11 points clear heading into the final quarter, as Jayla Johnson amassed 22 points while Kyaja Williams hit 19.

But nine points down the stretch by Ulster’s top scorer, Abigail Rafferty (18), coupled with a total of 15 rebounds by Trinity Oliver, went a long way to seeing Ulster bag their third win on the bounce.

“We’ve turned a bit of a corner defensively since Christmas,” said Ulster University head coach, Patrick O’Neill.

“We held Brunell to 10 points in the fourth quarter and that was the difference in the game. That defensive intensity was what really stood to us down the stretch.” 

Ulster University's men lost out on their home court, going down 87-70 to Griffith College Éanna.