NUI Galway played host to the biggest upset of the 2019/2020 Super League season so far as Moycullen toppled Belfast Star by 96-89 on Saturday evening.
Moycullen needed the full 40 minutes, plus five minutes of overtime, to secure the win over a Belfast side that had sat on top of the league table before the game tipped off.
The victory was all the more impressive because Moycullen were without two key players, American player Grant Olsson, who was out through injury, and U20 National Cup champion Paul Kelly, unavailable due to other sporting commitments.
Olsson’s unavailability meant Moycullen’s other American player, Daniel Vila, was thrust into the starting lineup, and in the first quarter he provided much of Moycullen’s scoring punch. Eight different players got on the scoresheet for Moycullen in the opening period, giving the home side a narrow lead.
Belfast fought back during the second quarter, however, and their American player Delaney Blaylock knocked down a trio of three-pointers to help Belfast flip the scoreboard.
But in the third, Belfast could only watch as Vila and Moycullen youngster James Conaire exploded offensively.
Each chipped in 12 points, while also using their quickness to frustrate Belfast on the opposite end. Star’s three-point shooters, who had proved to be more than reliable throughout this season, were given no room to manoeuvre by Moycullen’s wing players.
With their outside shooting failing, Belfast began to rely even more heavily on their American player, and his size and aggression in attack put Moycullen into foul trouble midway through the fourth. As a result of some indiscipline, Belfast too got into foul trouble, and so each foul committed sent players to their respective free-throw lines.
A pair of lay-ups from Conor Curran and Patrick Lyons cut Star’s lead to two points with less than 20 seconds on the clock, and when a late three-point shot went awry, it looked like Moycullen might have squandered their opportunity.
However, the inside presence of Vila and Conaire meant Belfast’s big-men had to scramble for the final rebound, and the ball deflected out-of-bounds, giving Moycullen one final chance, with only 2.4 seconds to go.
After a timeout, Moycullen inbounded the ball to Vila, who pump faked, got his defender in the air, and layed the ball in with less than a second remaining, sending the game to overtime.
In the extra period, James Conaire netted five points in 30 seconds to give Moycullen their dream start.
Try as they might, Belfast could not break through Moycullen’s defence. Forced to foul to slow down the clock, Belfast sent Conaire to the line a handful of times, where he knocked down every free-throw and secured the upset win for Moycullen.
“A big win for us,” said Moycullen head coach John Cunningham. “Star are a top team in this league, but we felt we had a real shot if we could limit their perimeter game, and we managed to do just that.
“We’ve had three wins from four now since Christmas, so we’ve got momentum going for us right now, and we’re going to work even harder to keep the ball rolling,” he added. "I think the U20 Cup win gave us momentum and hopefully we’ll carry that through to next week again.”
Moycullen : James Conaire (26 ), Conor Curran (19 ), Daniel Vila (16 ), Kyle Cunningham (11 ), Joseph Tummon (8 ), Patrick Lyons (7 ), Dylan Cunningham (6 ), Joshua Marvesely (3 ), James Lyons, Dara Kenna. Coach: John Cunningham
UCD Marian secured a big win at home on Saturday evening, running out 22-point winners over Maree, 78-56.
A massive first quarter from the hosts paved the way for their victory, as they opened up a big 35-6 end of quarter lead thanks to superb scoring from Aidan Dunne and Neil Baynes.
Maree bounced back well in the second quarter, but had a big mountain to climb. Despite good work from Maree's Oriol Balsells Plaza and Paul Freeman, Marian still led the way 48-22 at the half. The Dubliners pushed on again in the third quarter, with Dunne, Mike Garrow and Baynes all knocking down some big scores, and despite good play from the Galway outfit, the damage had already been done and UCD ran out 78-56 point winners in the end.
However in the women's Super League, Maree scooped a big home win on Saturday evening when they overcame Marble City Hawks 75-48 in Galway to keep their spot in second place on the league table.
Maree dominated the early exchanges, with scoring from Claire Rockall and Alison Blaney helping them to a 36-24 lead at the Break.
Hawks showed balanced scoring throughout with Katie Fox and Aine and Shelia Sheehy all hitting double figures, but the third and fourth quarters saw momentum firmly with Maree and they had too much for Hawks in the end, running out comfortable 75-48 point winners.