Hackett and Rutowski give Star the edge
Belfast Star pulled off a dramatic comeback victory over Dundalk Ravens in Cork to make the Under-18 National Cup final, leaving coach Gerard Ryan admitting: "My head is still in a spin."
Star were very poor in the first half and at one point in the third quarter trailed by 19 points but Eoin Hackett and Jakub Rutowski came off the bench and provided a spark that ignited a phenomenal drive to a 59-52 victory, setting up a final battle with Cork side Neptune in two weeks' time.
CJ Fulton may not have been at his very best yet he still top scored on 28 points, while Darragh Ferguson had 13, which included a monster three-pointer in the latter stages of a pulsating encounter.
Coach Ryan, whose side were 32-21 down at half-time, said: "All credit to the lads because they found themselves in a very tough position and found a way to win and sometimes that's what you have to do - you have to fight to the end because you just never know what will happen. I was like that as a player and that's how I coach.
"We had to go deep into our bench to find an answer to what was going wrong and credit to Eoin Hackett, who came off the bench and immediately hit two three pointers and a lay-up. That just seemed to lift everyone and a belief surged through the team.
"Some may have felt that CJ wasn't quite at the level we know he is capable of but he still had 28 points and had double figures in rebounds and steals - his defensive qualities are sometimes undervalued. We also had a very good defensive performance from Ryan Kingi."
There were mixed fortunes for University of Ulster at the weekend. Their Tigers side made it through to the Under-20 final with a 77-65 win over Templeogue but the UU women's side lost their Division One Cup semi-final 77-63 at the hands of Trinity Meteors.
Erin Maguire and Eimile Rodgers Duffy impressed for the Tigers as they finished joint top scorers on 15, while Abigail Rafferty had 14.