Belfast Star suffer title blow in Ballincollig

Ballincollig beat Belfast Star on Saturday night Superleague: Ballincollig 92 Belfast Star 87

BELFAST Star head coach Adrian Fulton says his side have been given a clear warning that they must return to their highest standards if they are to have a real shot at winning the Superleague title.

Star suffered only their third loss of the season on Saturday night when losing in overtime 92-87 away to Ballincollig, which means they must defeat Demons this Saturday night in their new home of Newforge to clinch the Northern Conference.

As well as the pain of defeat, Star are also concerned about a bad knee injury sustained by Albanian international Frenki Lijal, who had to be helped off the court with just over a minute remaining in overtime. Bizarrely, the referee did not call a foul after former Star man Keelan Cairns had collided with Lijal.

“We will have Frenki assessed as quickly as possibly because he did take a bad bang to the knee. We just don’t know how bad it is at the moment,” said coach Fulton.

“That’s a concern and it was a tough loss because we had so many opportunities to win the game and our rebounding was terrific. We actually out-rebounded them by 20 and if we keep that standard up we will win a lot more games but overall we have to say that this defeat is a warning that in every department we have to get back to the standards we have set so far this season.

“It’s very simply, if we don’t hit the standards we have set then what has been a very successful season could end up in disappointment. We have a chance to bounce back this Saturday and secure top spot in the conference on our home court so that has to be the focus.”

Star trailed after the first quarter and were down 40-30 in the second quarter with two minutes remaining but unanswered baskets from Conor Quinn, Deondre Jackson and Max Richardson got them to within two at the break.

American Andre Nation (27 points) was a constant thorn in Star’s side and he along with Nikola Rosa and Adrian O’Sullivan gave Ballincollig a nine-point lead with three minutes remaining. TC Fields (23 points and 14 rebounds) was Star’s outstanding performer but it was a three-pointer from Aidan Quinn that got the Belfast side to within two points. Dre Jackson then had a chance to win the game but having nailed his basket to level the game at 74-all he missed his free throw.

At the start of overtime Nation, Rosa and Adrian O’Sullivan shot Ballincollig into a seven- point lead and despite Star’s best efforts they couldn’t close the gap.

“They had 22 free throws and made 21 and we had 27 and only made 18 so that stat alone tells you a lot. If you don’t take your chances against good teams you get punished and they are champions for a reason,” commented coach Fulton.

“I have to say that TC was fantastic and at times he carried the team on his shoulders. We now face Demons who beat us in the Cup so let’s see how we respond.”