Fast-fin­ish­ing Thun­der join Star at sum­mit

Fingal Independent - - SPORT - BY PAUL BYRNE

GRIF­FITH Col­lege Swords Thun­der pro­duced a typ­i­cally late surge to over­come league lead­ers Belfast Star, a re­sult which sees them move up to joint top of the Su­per League ta­ble.

Coach Dave Baker had asked for a big per­for­mance from his charges fol­low­ing their heart­break­ing last-gasp loss to UCC Demons, and although not at their very best they showed all their fight­ing qual­i­ties to over­come a third-quar­ter deficit and ul­ti­mately en­joy a rel­a­tively com­fort­able seven-point vic­tory.

Swords Thun­der have one of the deep­est squads in the Su­per League and that en­abled Baker to rest point guard Isaac West­brooks, with re­cent sign­ing Travis Black com­ing in to re­place him. Kevin Lacey also dropped to the bench, with the al­ways re­li­able Alex Dolenko com­ing in for him against the league lead­ers.

The first half was a tight af­fair, with Belfast Star bring­ing a lot of phys­i­cal­ity to the game in an at­tempt to ruf­fle Thun­der’s feath­ers.

Justin Golds­bor­ough and Travis Black be­gan to find their range late in the half to help their side go in level at 22-22 af­ter the first quar­ter.

Belfast Star be­gan to get the up­per hand in the sec­ond as a waste­ful Swords missed quite a few open­ings. In­deed, Thun­der would only score 12 points in what was a very poor quar­ter for the hosts.

Belfast Star went in at the half­time break four points clear, with the score­board read­ing 38-34 in their favour.

Thun­der be­gan to in­crease the pace in the third quar­ter as Isaac West­brooks was in­tro­duced to the fold. To Belfast Star’s credit they matched Swords bas­ket for bas­ket through­out a com­pet­i­tive third quar­ter, although West­brooks late bas­ket re­duced the deficit to just two points (49-51).

That third quar­ter seemed to take a lot out of Star as Thun­der be­gan the fi­nal quar­ter in dom­i­nant fash­ion, scor­ing three unan­swered bas­kets to take the lead for the first time since the open­ing quar­ter.

Golds­bor­ough took his per­sonal tally to 20 points with a fine three-pointer as Swords fi­nally took con­trol against the league lead­ers.

Once Baker’s men took the lead they never looked back and in the end recorded a rel­a­tively com­fort­able seven-point vic­tory to join Star at the top of the Su­per League.

After­wards, coach Baker praised his play­ers for bounc­ing back well af­ter the pre­vi­ous week’s de­feat.

‘Yeah, we had a tough loss last week, but we re­grouped and I thought I would light a bit of a fire un­der the squad by bring­ing in Travis and Alex for Isaac and Kevin.

‘We have a deep squad and I think we showed that out there to­day. They are a well-drilled phys­i­cal side, but I thought our in­ten­sity late on was too much for them and once we took the lead I was con­fi­dent we would fin­ish the job.

‘We were a bit stag­nant in that sec­ond quar­ter and a re­turn of just 12 points was not great, but we’re a very fit team and I knew we’d be com­ing on strong down the stretch.

‘I think you will see us im­prov­ing from this point on. The sea­son started early this year and usu­ally we’d only be get­ting started around now, so I think we will be get­ting back to our best sooner rather than later.’

Travis Black makes a dash­ing run for Swords Thun­der.

Swords Thun­der’s Alex Dolenko weighs up his op­tions dur­ing Satur­day’s clash. Pics: Fin­tan Clarke

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