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GRIFFITH College Swords Thunder are still searching for their opening win of the season after they fell to a second league defeat in a row when Belfast Star got the better of them on Saturday evening.
Thunder’s preparations for the game were hit late on when coach Dave Baker fell ill on Saturday afternoon, meaning he couldn’t travel for the game.
Both Swords and Belfast Star had lost their opening games the previous weekend and they were each looking to bounce back with a win here in the De La Salle College gym.
The home side started much the brighter and were ten points clear approaching half-time, with Mike Davis in particular causing Thunder problems. A long-distance three-pointer on the buzzer from Mark Berlic ensured that Belfast finished the opening quarter with a healthy-looking 26-13 advantage.
Thunder’s point guard Isaac Westbrooks was coach on the day in the absence of Baker and he began to find some space as his side gradually got into the game in the second quarter to reduce the home side’s lead to seven approaching half-time.
However, Star increased their lead to double-digit figures once more late in the second quarter when Davis hit a three-pointer to leave the half-time scoreboard reading 44-34 in favour of the hosts.
It looked to be game over for Swords as Belfast Star came out of the blocks quickly in the third quarter to open up a 16-point gap, but to the visitors’ credit they fought back and reduced that lead to just six points going into the final quarter.
Elijah Mays and Kevin Lacey in particular were outstanding for the Fingal side as they stormed back into contention coming down the straight.
The final quarter saw Thunder continue that momentum and they looked to be favourites to go on and win when Mays drew the sides level with an excellent score early in the final quarter.
However, the home side managed to regroup and finished the game very strongly, with both Davis and Berlic scoring crucial baskets late on to help Belfast Star edge clear down the straight to record an 85-77 victory.
After the game stand-in coach Westbrooks spoke of his side’s frustration at another slow start to the game.
‘We started slowly again and unfortunately it has cost us for the second week running.
‘We were exactly where we wanted to be in the final quarter, but a couple of loose plays from us gave them the momentum back and they finished the game out well.
‘Obviously it wasn’t ideal for us to start without our coach in attendance, with Dave falling ill, and I have to admit I found it tough trying to manage the game from the court while playing also. It happened at such short notice and it definitely didn’t help our cause.
‘We have a lot of new faces in this year and I do believe we are starting to gell and I think we will improve as the season goes on.’
SWORDS THUNDER TOP SCORERS: Elijah Mays 18pts, Kevin Lacey 18, Isaac Westbrooks 7.
Katie Black tries to engineer a scoring opportunity for Swords.
Anna Brennan makes a surging run towards the basket for Swords Thunder against Maree at ALSAA. Pictures: Fintan Clarke