Star fail to seize the moment as classy Marian set up glory shot
This was the moment when Belfast Star's talented young group of players needed to seize the moment but instead the National Cup semi-final in Cork entangled them in a web of cold steel.
UCD Marian, in contrast, sparked from the opening bell and Star simply had no answer to the desire of their Dublin opponents who triumphed 91-63.
Mike Garrow, Mariusz Markowicz and Cathal Finn were determined to give their fans another night in the National Basketball Arena, having lost out in last year's final and as much as they were inspirational, Star's professionals faded in the heat of battle.
American Mike Davis was anonymous for long periods while Slovenian Mark Berlic and Spaniard Sergio Vidal were guilty of far too many errors. It was hard to keep up with the turnover count as a series of sloppy passes and failed offensive plays suggested the occasion had simply strangled Star's dream of a first final in 20 years.
Marian coach Ioannis Liapakis admitted he had targeted the threat of Star's 16-year-old point guard CJ Fulton and the teenager found himself under severe pressure from the first buzzer.
"We knew they were a team who depended on the three-point shot so we decided to be aggressive on them and it worked," said Liapakis.
For head coach Adrian Fulton and assistant Javan Dupree it must have felt like a bad dream from which there was no escape as his side were unable to show their true quality. Only Conor Quinn could take any crumb of satisfaction from this frustrating performance.
Fulton said: "Nothing went right for us but credit to Marian because they were excellent. We've got a three-year plan, we know we have a lot to work on and now it's about making sure we finish strongly because we have a lot to play for, sitting second in the Superleague."
Marian will now go on to face Killester in the final after they defeated Tralee in the second semi-final, 76-70. That proved to be more disappointment for an Ulsterman as former Star player Paul Dick is a key member of the Tralee side.
Meanwhile, CJ Fulton led Star's under-18 side to the All Ireland final yesterday as they hammered Portlaoise Panthers 81-68.
The teenager top scored with 32 points, while Conor Ryan hit 23 and Conor McDonnell was excellent on the boards.