Moycullen have a two-week respite following their baptism into Superleague basketball.
Coming off a disappointing defeat in their first game, Moycullen stepped up their performance against last season’s double winners Blue Demons at the Mardyke Arena on Saturday, but still came away with a loss.
However coach Byrt feels he has a solid base from which to work and, with two weeks to the next game, he is hoping the same level of improvement will leave the team in a position to challenge for a first win in Belfast against Belfast Star.
Moycullen had the worst possible start against Blue Demons last weekend. Struggling to get into any sets, a series of turnovers gifted Demons with a 13-0 start. Carlton Cuffe, Niall Murphy, and American Joshua Johnson capitalised on mistakes to run in a series of lay-ups. Things looked ominous for the visitors as the hosts were in full flow. However Mike Dowd and Simon Harris steadied the ship, while Cian Nihill connected on a pair of impressive threes in an eight-point quarter to reduce the deficit to 22-13.
Moycullen grew in confidence and their scrambling defence caused problems for the hosts. Nihill continued to impress, connecting on another eight points for the quarter, while the veteran Cunninghams, John and Nollaig, shared another seven as Moycullen reversed the first quarter pattern. It brought the teams level, but five late points from Joshua Johnson and a solid shift from young Kyle Hosford at the guard position saw them edge a 35-34 half time lead.
Moycullen, unfortunately, got on the wrong side of the refs and, in foul trouble from early on, they were punished severely by the home team who connected on seven free throws. Trailing by 17, Moycullen’s spirit was exemplified by Eoghan Maxwell who came in off the bench and sparked a second revival. He immediately nailed a three-pointer, while Simon Harris finally reaped some reward at the offensive end to come back into the game with a 59-45 scoreline.
Three baskets from Niall Murphy early in the fourth saw the hosts stretch the lead to 19. Nihill sparked another run with an inside score followed by a rare four-point play. Puff Summers came in for Harris and Mindaugus Kurcenkovas added further speed as Moycullen upped the pace even more. An immediate steal and lay-up from Summers, followed by a run of seven points from Kurcenkovas hinted at an improbable comeback, but it was not to be. Chasing the game, Moycullen inevitably gave up too many fouls and Demons were clinical from the line. Niall O’Reilly, David and Niall Murphy, and Carlton Cuffe shared 10 free throws among them and the hosts hung on for a hard-earned 79-69 win.