Belfast Star were in stunning form in De La Salle this evening to down reigning league champions, Garvey’s Tralee Warriors in thrilling fashion, 84-81.
Keelan Cairns, Aidan Quinn and Delaney Blaylock were the heroes on the night for the hosts, with Quinn and Blaylock both hitting huge three pointers at crucial stages at the game, while it was Cairns who stepped up when the sides were level at 78-78 points apiece and delivered a dagger three that would ultimately set his side on the road to victory.
Nothing separated the sides throughout in a top of the table clash that truly lived up to its billing. Star just had the edge at half time off the back off huge scores from Quinn, CJ Fulton and Blaylock, but a buzzer beating score from Paul Dick at the other end, left just a point between the sides, 41-40, at the half time break. Again, it was Star who led the way at the end of the third, 60-64, but everyone in the gym knew that this one was going to the wire and a nail-biting fourth quarter followed. Tralee took the lead with five minutes to play in the quarter, before Conor Johnson delivered a huge three pointer for Star to edge them back in front. Big scores from Blaylock were replied to at the other end by Eoin Quigley, and with Star leading by three with just two minutes to play, it was Kieran Donaghy who stepped up, shooting home a massive three-pointer to tie the game up 78-78. With the game at a fever pitch, it was the cool head of big man Keelan Cairns who put Star back in front as he sank a big three-pointer at the other end, and despite free throws at either end, Star managed to hang on to win in thrilling fashion, 84-81.
Speaking afterwards head coach Adrian Fulton said: “It was a terrific game of basketball. All the way through it ebbed and flowed, it was very close, I don't think more than seven points separated us at any stage. I'm thrilled with our fellas, Tralee aren't going to lose many games, so we really needed to take this opportunity to give ourselves a chance going into the New Year. I'm delighted we got ourselves over the line. That was a massive three pointer from Keelan Cairns after a key three pointer from Kieran Donaghy as well. At the big moments I think we had big plays - Aidan Quinn had his best game of the year, Delaney Blaylock was terrific when we needed big scores, he had the answers. There’s still a long way to go, but we are in the mix.”
The win for Star sees them go joint top of the table with Tralee and DBS Éanna, the latter winning out in style in Kerry this evening, 71-90, over Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin. Stefan Zecevic, Marko Tomic and Neil Lynch were all in superb form for the Dubliners as they drove into a 54-32 point lead, leaving Killorgin with a big hill to climb in the third quarter. A high scoring third quarter followed from both sides, but Éanna still had a 56-74 point cushion going into the last, and they drove on from there to win out by 19 in the end.
Up in Dublin meanwhile, UCD Marian overcame neighbours Griffith College Templeogue in a high-scoring derby battle, 96-84. Mike Garrow and Aidan Dunne dazzled for Marian on the night, combining for 46 points between them to see UCD into a 50-31 point half time lead. The battle was far from over though, as despite leading 73-57 going into the last quarter, UCD had to dig deep to close the game out, with Templeogue’s Lorcan Murphy, Puff Summers and Darren Townes driving their side back to within four with just six minutes to play. Marian kept their cool though and managed to put some breathing space back between them as the clock ticked down to win out 96-84 in the end.