Basketball Ireland National Cup
Éanna 72 Belfast Star 81
Belfast Star turn their attention back to Super League action this weekend after a fine win in the first round of the National Cup over Éanna in Dublin.
Tralee Warriors will be the visitors to La Salle on Saturday for an earlier than usual 5pm tip when Adrian Fulton’s side hope to make it six league wins on the trot.
After a sluggish start to the season, the Kerry side have picked up the pace in recent weeks and now sit joint fourth in the league on a three-and-two record.
Both sides come into the game in fine offensive mode – Star racked up the ton in their last league win over Ulster University, while Tralee also hit the hundred mark in their Cup victory over Sligo.
Star will go into Saturday’s game having had a ‘Field’ day in the recently announced October Player & Coach of the Month Awards.
No-one in the country was surprised to see Adrian Fulton pick up the Coaching Award after those five opening wins that have Star out on their own at the top of the Super League table.
Likewise, it also seemed clear that either Tamiryk Fields or De’Ondre Jackson would come out on top in the Players’ section. In the end, Fields nicked the award just ahead of fellow American Jackson making it a worthy triple recognition for Star and their blistering start to the season.
Fields and Jackson are giving Fulton a combined 52 points per game, while Fields is also proving his worth on the boards with 8.8 rebounds per game through five weeks.
Indeed, the combination of Fields’ power and Jackson's athleticism makes the pair probably the most deadly American duo in the League right now.
And while swingman Jackson has been exceptional in offence, Fulton is now seeing the player significantly improve his performance defensively as well.
“We all know how potent ’Dre is on offence, but now he has challenged himself to do even more in defence. And he did just that against Éanna,” said Fulton.
Jackson had eight defensive rebounds in the Saturday’s Cup victory as well as a game-high 29 points. Star’s captain Conor Quinn continued his remarkable form this season with a total of 20 while Fields hit 15.
Star had worked their way to an 11-point lead at half-time over an Éanna side who rallied a little later in the game. By then, however, all Fulton’s side had to do was keep the score ticking along in order to seal a quarterfinal slot away to UCC Demons early in December.
That cup clash will be the stand-out fixture of the quarters, made all the more interesting by the fact that the first round saw Demons defeat last year’s champions Maree of Galway, while Star’s win over Éanna was at the expense of last year’s beaten finalists.