TOMORROW is Super Saturday for Irish basketball’s SuperLeague clubs, with the quarter-finals of the men’s National Cup throwing up interesting pairings.
Champions UCC Demons continue their defence of the title against strong opposition from the North in the form of Belfast Star , while last year’s beaten finalists, Killester, face Tony Hehir’s unbeaten UL Eagles.
Demons were awesome in their 102-73 thumping of DCU Saints in the NIVEA for MEN SuperLeague last weekend and coach Luke D’Alessio will be hoping for more of the same when they return to the Parochial Hall for the visit of Star.
“We as a team will need to be able to handle Star’s offensive spread as they have very good guards and are very well organised offensively,” said D’Alessio. “We will again need to minimise our turnovers as any mistakes in this one-off game could be vital.
“On our own defence we will need to keep them out of the lanes, we will need to rebound hard and play good help defence to contain the offensive threat of Scott Sumersgill and Stephen Dawson.”
Belfast Star will finally be able to unveil new recruit Kevin Ratzsch, who was expected to make his debut last week.
“UCC Demons’ record speaks for itself,” said Star coach Danny Fulton. “They have started to put a couple of big displays together and will be formidable opposition.”
Neptune had a big win over HOOPS last weekend and travel to Dublin for the Cup tie against the same opposition with five players injured.
The problems for coach Pat Price took on a new dimension when Juwann James and Paul Stapleton collided in practice on Wednesday night.
“They came away with a bruised knee and a sprained knee and that’s not good,” he said. “Ian McLaughlin has a sprained ankle, Ger Noonan a groin strain and Malcolm Thompson is out with a long-term shoulder injury.
“But when you get into a knockout situation it’s all about getting through the 40 minutes. You survive and advance and, in some ways, it is an opportunity for some guys to step up.”
HOOPS, too, have received a huge blow with the news that Eoin Chubb came away from last week’s meeting with Neptune with an injury and will miss the cup quarter-final.
But coach Ahmad Smith is not panicking. “We have to get better defensively,” he said. “We competed well and got close to Neptune last week in the third quarter. This is a huge game in terms of our season.”
Killester face a massive obstacle in UL Eagles and their hopes haven’t been helped by injury blows to Paddy Kelly, Mike Westbrooks and Michael Goj.
Meanwhile, Ulster Elks will be hoping their first win of the season will get them into the last four of the Men’s SuperLeague National Cup at the expense of UCD/Marian.
In the Women’s National Cup, Killester and UL meet for the second time in a week, while last year’s beaten finalists, DCU Mercy, travel to Bausch & Lomb Waterford Wildcats.
James Weldon’s UL side won last weekend’s game 67-60 to keep their unbeaten record but the coach saw enough to know his side face a real test in their bid to reach the semi-finals.
Sinead Deegan is doubtful ahead of &Wildcats’ tough test at home to DCU Mercy.
Tolka will be without Joanne Mahon and Mary Hulgraine as they look to secure their first win of the season against Dublin rivals Meteors while Meteors will be making the short trip to Tolka without Nicky O’Brien, Lorraine Scully and Caroline Flynn.
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