Star make it five wins out of six but can improve
COACH Neil McCotter asked for more after Belfast Star had finished the first half of the Men's Premier League season with three wins in a week, and he got it as the action resumed over the weekend. Star paid another visit to Dublin and, this time, lowered Éanna's colours.
The visitors sped to an impressive 91-78 victory, at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght, to cement their place among the top four in the league. However, it took some serious talking from the coach at half-time to make the players press the power pedal.
Star had been coasting at 17 points up with a few minutes to the break left but Eanna was allowed to narrow the gap to 11 (51-40) by landing three late lay-ups, one from a tip in, after an Eanna player missed a free-throw.
Obviously, McCotter's stern words at the break had an effect as his charges finished 13 points winners but there were some things that still need attention, as assistant coach Danny Fulton remarks: “Our defensive and offensive rebounding has to be tightened up and we are still missing lay-up which shouldn't happen.
“Those type of mistakes can be costly but this was an important win for us. Very important in the sense that they came to Belfast at the start of the season and, unexpectedly, beat us. We just had to balance that.
“Of course, every win is very welcome and to have won four-in-a-row and five from our last six matches is good.
“With the cup being on weekend, and us out of it, we will have a free weekend. Then we will have UL Eagles from Limerick in Belfast. By that time, Sasha Seymour will be back from his holiday, at home, in the US. He has been doing very well when going into games to rest Shawn Vanzant.”
Vanzant returned from his home holiday, in Tampa, last Wednesday and was in flying form against Eanna as he top-scored for Star, on 31 points. Also, once again, in shooting form was guard Marty McDonnell who netted 21 and Paddy McGaharan, who has been in fine form this season, added 14. Teenager Liam Pettigrew made a useful nine.
Ulster Rockets didn't have a game over the weekend and their second half of the season will begin with their Women's Division One Cup semi-finals, in Cork, next Saturday against NUIG, who are going very well, at present.
During Rockets' rest, they received both good and bad news. The good news is that a November double was won by the club as Breda Dick was named Coach of the Month and Emma O'Connor won the Player of the Month award. It is a rare double for any club in the same month and a great boost to the Belfast-based team.
On the debit side, however, is the news that the O'Callaghan sisters, Niamh and Aoife have opted out of the Rockets' squad for personal reasons. That's a bitter blow to the team as the teenagers were performing well, with Niamh being a regular starter.