CJ Fulton is a serious doubt for Belfast Star's All-Ireland Superleague clash away to Moycullen next weekend following his pain-defying performance for the club's Under-18 side on Saturday.
Underdogs Star shot into a first-quarter lead in the National Cup final and were 45-34 up at half-time but then Neptune mounted a ferocious comeback and as Fulton tired the Cork men took full advantage in the final quarter.
Fulton, who finished with a superb 30 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, still proved effective in a tense final few minutes along with Darragh Ferguson, who had 24 points, while overall Iandle Alvarado, Conor McDonnell, Jacob Rutowski and Conall McGirr also impressed.
Fulton had not trained due to an ankle injury picked up playing for St Malachy's College 10 days earlier and it was a gamble to play him in Saturday's final in the National Basketball Arena.
It almost paid off as a three from Fulton followed by a Ferguson steal brought Star to within four points with a minute remaining having seen the Cork men go ahead by nine.
Credit to Neptune's Sean McCarthy and Eli Lenihan, who sparked their side's fightback and sealed victory.
Star's Under-18 coach Ger Ryan said: "CJ Fulton has the heart of a lion. What he had to go through to play those 40 minutes and produce such a fantastic performance was incredible.
"I'm very proud of all the players because they showed great character. When we lost in last year's final I was devastated but I feel contentment after this loss simply because the guys could not have given any more.
"They did incredibly well to get to the final and our original starter Niall Morgan deserves a mention because he helped us into the quarter-final but suffered a bad knee injury that ruled him out."
There was also disappointment for UU Tigers as they went down 85-76 to Waterford Wildcats in the Women's Under-20 National Cup final yesterday.
Alex Mulligan was in fine form for the Tigers at the other end, with a 23-point game, while Erin Maguire and Eimile Rogers Duffy also impressed with 16 points apiece.
On Saturday night, Templeogue landed their third National Cup in six years with a 78-68 win over Eanna. Lorcan Murphy had an outstanding game, hitting a game-high 33 points.