Gritty Star give it everything but run out of steam in Dublin
Templeogue 77-62 Belfast Star
Belfast Star's season ended with a true grit performance but defeat in the All Ireland Champions Trophy final, going down 77-62 to Templeogue at the DCU arena.
Having to play without American ace Mike Davis, who was unable to return to Belfast after a short time in the States due to a visa issue, Star fought all the way but ultimately the stacked quality of the Dubliners was the difference down the stretch.
Captain Conor Johnston, 16-year-old CJ Fulton and Spaniard Sergio Vidal all shone in a hard-fought final but the experience and strength of Jason Killeen and Dee Proby proved crucial.
Trailing by 12 points, Star roared back with a three-pointer from Johnston followed by two spectacular three-pointers from teenager Fulton which brought the sides level at 55-55. It seemed the momentum was with Star but credit to the Dubliners as they killed off the comeback immediately with eight unanswered points and from that point there was only one winner.
Star coach Adrian Fulton hailed his squad for a terrific effort in the face of adversity and insisted they would be even stronger next year in the pursuit of silverware.
"The plan was to hang tough right to the end and we did that. I'm very proud of every one of the players. There's no denying that the guys were gutted when they heard the news that Mike Davis couldn't play but they still believed and they fought with real belief," said Fulton.
"We did a very good job on Killeen and Proby in the first half - those two guys just had a combined total of seven points but down the stretch there is no doubt they had an impact.
"We just didn't take as many chances as we should have but I have to say that is the best I've felt after a loss all season. I couldn't have asked more from them - they did everyone at the whole club proud with their effort.
"Looking ahead to next season we will look to be even stronger. We've got a good base now and just have to build on that. If we can add to what we have I believe we'll be challenging again."
Fulton and assistant coach Javan Dupree have transformed Star this year, taking them from a mid-table side to one bidding for silverware on all three fronts and ultimately the only thing lacking over the campaign was a trophy.