Belfast Star hang in there to set up cup cracker
Belfast Star may have lost for the second week running to Killester in Clontarf but their National Cup hopes are very much alive.
Star will take on the classy Dubliners in the second leg of their Cup encounter on Saturday at MCB with just three points separating the sides after the Belfast men went down 83-80 in a nailbiting first leg.
The visitors, well beaten in the All Ireland league seven days earlier, seemed to be heading for another heavy loss after a third quarter dominated by the home side but then came a tremendous fightback led by Frank Otis, Paul Dick – top scorer on 24 – and Conor Johnson.
Class act Dick drove to the basket to notch a two with 30 seconds remaining and moments later had two free throws to tie it up at 81 all. He converted one and then the impressive Isaac Westbrooks sent down both his free throws to seal victory for the Dubliners.
Star's assistant coach Darren O'Neill said: "I thought the lads played with a lot more freedom on Saturday night. It was also the best game that our American Frank Otis has had in a Star shirt.
"But he only had 13 points and that was down to us not getting the ball into him enough. That is something that we have to talk about ahead of the second leg.
"With only trailing by three points, we have given ourselves a chance. On paper, Killester have more talent and experience but this is the cup and we are set up for a great game at MCB.
"We are a young side but the lads have raised their game, they have responded to the tough training and demands of the Premier League."
Killester's head coach Jonathan Grennell said: "We are happy to win but not happy with our performance in the fourth quarter.
"We had control of the game and didn't do the little things needed to close out the game. They out-hustled us and won the 50:50 battles. Star have a lot of momentum heading back up to Belfast for the second leg."