Belfast Star coach Adrian Fulton knew he was in for a rollercoaster ride this season and Saturday night’s 84-72 defeat at home to Templeogue compounded the point that his men are not yet firing on all cylinders.
The All Ireland Superleague champions had a stunted pre-season and have been hit by the absence of automatic starters Paul Dick and Aidan Quinn. The new-look team is still waiting for American James Claar to find his best form and overall they are simply missing too many opportunities.
Max Cooper continues to be the bright spark for Star and when they trailed 47-38 at half-time in La Salle, the Englishman was central to the third quarter fightback along with Aidan’s brother Conor Quinn.
Star gave their fans hope of victory as they rallied with some smart offensive play. Cooper, who top scored on 24 points cut through the Templeogue defence, while Quinn made some big shots to leave Star only trailing 62-59. With three minutes remaining the sides were level on 71 but then a mixture of poor shot selection and a lack of offensive cohesion allied to Templeogue’s clinical scoring took the game away from Star who have now lost both their opening home matches, having won the road against Killester.
Statistics do not always tell the story of a battle but Star finished with a conversion rate of five out of 18 from the three-point line and a paltry nine from 19 attempts at the foul line. That is simply not good enough – and some distance away from the standard required to retain the Superleague crown.
While it is understandable this new Star side needs time to gel, Fulton will know he needs more from professionals Jonny Foulds and American Claar while also expecting Austin Beech to start making a major impact as soon as possible.
“It’s a disappointing result and it was an inconsistent performance and I suppose that’s perhaps the hallmarks of team that is evolving and just not where they need to be just yet,” admitted Fulton.
“Our ability to put the ball in the basket when open and at the foul line is hurting us at the minute, without a doubt and that is something that we just have to keep working hard at.
“All three games in the league have been close and we just need to be more ruthless at closing games out when we’re leading. So far we have scored 74, 73 and 72 and the reality is that we won’t win a lot of games unless we can get our point production up.”
Indeed, Star will need to find that shooting prowess this week if they are to overcome Eanna in the National Cup this weekend.