Basketball Ireland Super League
Belfast Star 90-80 Templeogue
As Super League basketball moves into the end-of-season knock-out stages, the players and fans of Belfast Star know that it’s show-time once again.
Star’s final league position, second in the Northern Conference, has rewarded them with a home tie in the quarterfinals against Neptune of Cork and the attendance in the La Salle court this Saturday evening is expected to exceed last week’s massive turnout for the win over Templeogue in the final League game of the regular season.
A win for Star on Saturday will advance them to the League semi-final, while a loss will mark the end of their interest in the competition until next October.
So, the season is on the line and no better place to see it all play out than what has now been dubbed ‘Fortress La Salle’ where Adrian Fulton’s side remain unbeaten this campaign.
Neptune will expect to change that, of course, and will travel north confidently, buoyed by their 72-65 home success over Star just three weeks ago in the league proper. That game was one of three successive losses for Star on the road, a streak which took the gloss off what had been a sparkling season for the players of Fulton and assistant coach Gerard Lawlor.
“Yes, every loss is disappointing of course,” said Fulton.
“When we faced Neptune down in Cork, they were just a touch more clinical than us on the night. On the other hand, what impressed me most was the fact that we held them to a score of 20 points lower than what they have been usually getting. Then, when we upped the pace of everything, that’s when we were at our best against them.”
BIGGEST crowd of the year sees Star complete an UNBEATEN record in "Fortress La Salle". 90-80 tonight over Templeogue. Thank you for your tremendous support. See you for the PLAYOFFS next Sat night!!!! pic.twitter.com/u3YiCeUB9d— Belfast Star (@BelfastStar64) March 11, 2023
Neptune themselves had to really battle their way to the playoffs when they faced a winner-take-all encounter away to reigning champions Tralee Warriors last weekend.
A very tight contest saw the sides slug it out right down to the wire before Irish international Jordan Blount’s big three-pointer helped edge it for Neptune in the dying moments.
Blount, of course, is well-known to Ireland Assistant Coach Adrian Fulton as is Neptune’s Roy Downey, both of whom have been regulars in the Irish set-up of late and are lynchpins in a very potent Cork line-up.
All in all, it means that this weekend’s clash presents a high-stakes game for both sides, with recent results really counting for little at this stage of the season.
However, on Saturday last in La Salle, Star certainly laid down a good marker for the playoffs after beating Templeogue 90-80. Shon Briggs was again outstanding, scoring 34, and in truth, Star were much better value than a ten-point win suggested.
The foundation for the Star victory was laid in a very productive first quarter with Briggs alone hitting 10 points, ably abetted by Max Richardson and Conor Quinn, driving the home side to a 30-21 tally after ten minutes.
Briggs was at his barnstorming best again in the second, powering his way to a further 12 points with solid support from Oisin Kerlin in defence and Aidan Quinn finding his three-point touch to move the lead out to 15 points at the half, 52-37.
Paddy McGaharan capped some fruitful minutes to round off the scoring in the third and to effectively end the game as a contest with Star up by 19, 73-54, going into a fourth quarter that saw Templeogue notch up a late 14-4 run to bring the winning margin down to just ten points for Star, 90-80.
Top scorers for Star were Shon Briggs with a big 34 points, followed by Conor Quinn on 15, Max Richardson on 14, and Aidan Quinn on 8. Star’s clash with Neptune tips at 6.30pm on Saturday in La Salle.
Meanwhile, Star’s dynamic U20 side sealed their place in their All Ireland league play-offs with an emphatic 88-77 victory over Carlow. Darragh Ferguson top scored with 29 points, while Luke Donnelly had 22 and Jake McCotter 13. They now face Athlone in this Saturday's semi-final in La Salle at 3.30pm.