Fulton proud as Star show fight to come back in overtime thriller
Belfast Star kicked off their All Ireland Super League campaign with a bang after a memorable 94-92 overtime victory over Templeogue at La Salle College.
Star's 22-year-old American Delaney Blaylock made an immediate impact down the stretch with the game in the balance in normal time on Saturday night.
Star had fallen behind by 16 points in the third quarter, mainly due to the potent threat of Lorcan Murphy who hit three three-pointers in succession. He would eventually finish as top scorer on 34.
But Star dug deep and it was Blaylock, with two seconds remaining, who got inside and hit the basket to take the game into five minutes of overtime as the Belfast supporters rose to their feet in exhilaration.
The rollercoaster game remained tight but Keelan Cairns came up with two crucial three-pointers to give Star the momentum. Nevertheless, the Star fans were biting their finger nails as both Jason Kileen and Neil Randolph missed three-point efforts in the final minute.
Star rode their luck and made the Dubliners pay with 16-year-old CJ Fulton drawing the foul and converting two free throws. That gave Star a five-point lead and it was only a Randolph three on the buzzer that brought the result to within two points.
Templeogue entered the season as one of the title favourites but were stunned by the intensity and grit of Star, who had big performances from Balylock, Cairns, Liam Pettigrew, Aidan Quinn and young Fulton. New Serbian ace DJ Stankovic looks a quality player but Fulton believes he has much more to offer.
Star will this weekend head to defending champions Tralee, who suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Marian.
Star coach Fulton said: "I'm very proud of the way the boys fought. They showed a real steel that maybe at times last year wasn't there and to get this win is just great. It has to be one of the most exciting games I've been involved with and the fans were fantastic throughout.
"I was pleased with how Delaney Blaylock started but I know we have still to see the best of him and Stankovic will be better when he gains some sharpness.
"There were a lot of positives with Liam Pettigrew having a great game, the return of Aidan Quinn and we had 17-year-old Connor McDonnell making his debut and 18-year-old Conor Ryan on the bench."