Star's title tilt stays on track as they blow over Thunder
Belfast Star bounced back from the bitter disappointment of exiting the National Cup to maintain their bid for All Ireland Super League title glory when winning away to Swords Thunder on Saturday night.
The manner of the cup semi-final defeat at the hands of Marian was gut-wrenching for Star's supporters but any concerns that Adrian Fulton's men would fade away in the league were completely dispelled as they showed class and grit to defeat Swords 90-75.
American Mike Davis and Spaniard Sergio Vidal had admitted they badly underperformed in the cup loss and the pair duly returned to top form as they hit 29 and 17 points, respectively.
Only ahead by five points at the break, Star extended their lead in the third quarter and despite feeling some pressure down the stretch, Fulton's men showed their mettle to close out a victory that means they lie in second place in the Super League, just three points behind Templeogue.
"It was great to bounce back after the disappointment of last weekend in the cup semi-final," said Fulton. "We played some excellent team basketball at times, shared the ball and had a nice scoring spread.
"Swords have a lot of talent but were missing Elijah Mays and Bobby Ahern so that didn't help their cause. We still need to improve on maintaining our focus for 40 minutes as we still have a tendency to take our foot off the gas when we are in the ascendancy, but overall I'm very happy with the attitude and the character that the lads showed."
Star will be without Slovenian Mark Berlic for the rest of the season as he has returned home after three months of inconsistent performances, ranging from excellent to very poor - such as in the cup defeat when he went AWOL just as Star needed some inspiration from their professionals.
To some extent he may be seen as a loss for Star, who will fight all the way for the title, but in regard to the overall chemistry of the team and the magnificent rebuilding programme engineered by coach Fulton, his exit should be of little consequence.
Meanwhile, Marian followed up their victory over Star in the cup by handing out a beating to Killester which dented their title assault and gave the Belfast side a further boost as they had gone into the weekend joint second with the Dubliners.