Play Off Quarter Finals take centre stage
The Play-Off’s take centre stage on Sunday with Belfast Star set for a difficult trip to UCC Demons, while Bord Gais Neptune and DCU Saints clash with a place in the semi finals at stake.
11890 Killester and UL Eagles lie await in those last four encounters with Killester hosting the winners from Star’s meeting with Demons, while Southern Conference winners UL Eagles face a tricky test against either of in-form duo Bord Gais Neptune and DCU Saints.
Belfast Star were unlikely candidates to make the Play Off’s at the start of the year but a collapse from UCD Marian has seen them sneak through on the final weekend of the regular season.
UCD Marian were favourites to land third spot and a quarter final place but since their National Cup final heroics against 11890 Killester, they have secured just one win from six league games.
Star failed to win either of their final two regular season league games but UCD’s defeat to Killester meant Star earned the right to face UCC demons by virtue of the head to head over the Students this season.
Demons will be wary as it took a last gasp three pointer from Ciaran O’Sullivan in October to claim the points before they were once again pushed all the way in their league win in February.
Star possess potential match winners in Clayton Longmire, who is topping the points average this season with 28.27 points per game, and Scott Summersgill, two players who Head Coach Paul Kelleher has identified as a potential threat to his side reaching the last four.
“I said after we played Star in Belfast at the beginning of the year that they were going to make noise and they certainly have by making the play-offs,” said Kelleher.
“Star are a very accomplished and well coached team that have a good mixture of youth & experience. Scott Summersgill and Clayton Longmire are explosive scorers and in recent weeks their younger players have contributed heavily in their success so far. Any team that can defeat Killester on their own patch twice has certain qualities to do so and it is up to us to try and negate them to our benefit.
“This past weekend was a big breakthrough weekend for us in terms of our mental strength that we have highlighted in recent weeks. Having not played well and very lucky to come away with a win at Moycullen, we showed toughness and resolve in the last three minutes of that game and then to turn around and play better against Limerick.”
For Star, Head Coach Danny Fulton isn’t panicking too much that his side failed to sign off on the final regular season weekend with a win.
“I wasn’t overly concerned by the two losses last weekend,” said Star Head Coach Danny Fulton. “I have seen it so often in the past when it comes down to the final few games in the regular season. I believe that 3 double headers caught up with the players but we got a chance to give everybody a game which I’m pleased about. We have given Demons two good games this year so we have a real chance if we play well.”
DCU Saints can currently boast to be the form team of 2011, recording eight league wins out of nine games, and their Irish international Emmet Donnelly is hoping their momentum is not about to come to a halt at the all important knockout stage.
The Saints continue to be without Mark Nagle and Mike Lacey, while Eoin Quill and Eanna Rutherford have a made a full return to fitness.
DCU tasted victory over Neptune on the final day of the regular season albeit by a single point (78-77) and will be concerned that they almost let slip a 20 point half time lead to Pat Price’s side.
“Hopefully it will serve us well that we had two difficult games to finish the regular season,” said Saints’ Emmet Donnelly. “Neptune will be very tough and they showed in the second half on Sunday what they’re capable of with a lot of guys stepping up. However, there is a great strength of character and belief within our squad so if we can bring that into the quarter finals then we’ll give ourselves a fantastic chance to make the semi’s.”
Price’s Neptune charges also know what it takes to beat DCU, when a Michael Bonaparte inspired display helped the Cork side to a 99-89 win in December.
Despite the result, Price firmly believes his side are the underdogs against the league’s in-form Saints.
‘We are excited about the game but are well aware we must be massive underdogs,” said Price. “With Saints having home court advantage it is truly a David & Goliath challenge.
However, we believe that if we can emulate our performances of our last couple of games we will give ourselves a great chance to come away with the win. Saints have had a huge run of wins lately that they’ll feel pressure to maintain but it will be up to us to expose chinks in their armour.”
Basketball Ireland Upcoming Fixtures
Saturday March 12 2011
Basketball Ireland Men’s Division One Quarter Final Playoffs
Team Garvey’s St.Mary’s (Castleisland, Kerry) v Portlaoise (Laois), Castleisland Community Centre, 19:30; Tolka Rovers (Dublin) V Titans (Galway), Tolka Rovers Sports Complex, 19:30
Basketball Ireland Women’s Division One
Liffey Celtics (Dublin) V UL (Limerick), Leixlip Centre, 14:40; Thurles Knights (Tipperary) v Foireann na Gaillimhe (Galway), Presentation Thurles, 15:00
Sunday March 13 2011
Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague Quarter Finals
UCC Demons (Cork) v Belfast Star (Antrim), Mardyke Arena, 15:15; DCU Saints (Dublin) v Bord Gáis Neptune (Cork), DCU Sports Complex, 15:30
Basketball Ireland Women’s Division One
Brunell (Cork) v Liffey Celtics (Dublin), Parochial Hall, 14:45; Team Tom McCarthy’s St.Mary’s (Castleisland, Kerry) v Thurles Knights (Tipperary), 18:45