Belfast Star distraught as National Cup hopes vanish
Belfast Star's players were left devastated after missing out on the National Cup quarter-finals by just two points at the hands of Dublin side Swords.
Having led by 10 points from the first leg which they won 83-73, Star went down 74-62 at the weekend in a thrilling encounter which almost headed into overtime, only for Aidan Quinn's attempt to fall short.
The pain of defeat was clear to see and coach Neal McCotter admitted that it was "a desperate dressing room" afterwards with some players shedding tears as they knew it was a huge missed opportunity for Star to make some progress in the Cup for the first time in many years.
"It was a very tough loss for the guys, to only lose by two points after two legs is very hard to take and we all have to take responsibility," said McCotter.
"There were mistakes that I made, we could have gone to a zone defence earlier in the game for example.
"The third quarter was where we ultimately lost the game, late on there was only four points between the sides and I felt all we had to do was manage the game but then in a minute we were 16 points down.
"We just turned the ball over too many times and made some bad shot selections.
"It is a very big chance missed and the dressing room showed that, everybody was very down but you know there were also many positives.
"We have progressed a lot and this season is about the team gaining a lot more valuable experience."
McCotter pointed to a 40-second period when Star turned the ball over three times, leading to Swords hitting three lay-ups in the third quarter which effectively took the game away from the Belfast men, while the class and experience of Isaac Westbrookes also shone through at crucial moments.
He added: "Westbrookes made some very clever plays, he drew fouls from us that we have to learn from - he just has that know-how to do the right thing at the right time and credit to Swords because they played very well throughout and turned around the 10-point deficit.
"The good thing is that we have them next week at home in the league so we have to learn from this quickly and look to get the win."