Monday 19 March 2018

Heartbroken Thunder seek Star display

Basketball: UCC Demons 96 Swords Thunder 95

Paul Byrne

Griffith College Swords Thunder coach Dave Baker has challenged his side to bounce back this weekend at home to league leaders Belfast Star after they agonisingly fell short on Sunday evening against UCC Demons.

Thunder lost the game with 2.2 seconds to go after the Demons were controversially awarded a technical foul by the referee. However, Baker has urged his side - who are still joint second in the table - to put that game behind them and bounce back this weekend against the unbeaten Star.

'It's nearly the perfect game for us, to be honest. It won't be hard at all for me to focus the guys' minds on the challenge ahead. If this had been a game against one of the sides down near the bottom it would have been difficult to get them to raise their levels, but this is a game against an unbeaten side and I believe that we have a group of players who have the ability to rise to the occasion and right the wrongs of this evening's loss.

'This is such a tough league to win, and as we saw last year even a single loss can have a huge impact on your season. This is a game we can't afford to lose and we need to deliver.'

That loss in Cork was even tougher to take for Thunder, given the fact that the referee apparently apologised to Baker after the game for a bad call which resulted in Demons scoring the winning basket with time almost up.

It was a tough end to a very entertaining game of basketball, with the Demons thankful for their hugely talented American Lehman Colbert who played a huge part in their victory. Colbert finished with an impressive 34 points in his first game back from injury and he was ably assisted by player coach Colin O'Reilly who shot 24 points.

The game started at breakneck speed, with both sides seemingly finding the basket at will in a high-scoring opening quarter.

Alex Dolenko and Charlie Coombes impressed for Thunder in those early stages, while Colbert and O'Reilly matched them at the other end. After an entertaining opening quarter the scoreboard read 33-30 in favour of Swords.

The second quarter wasn't quite as exhilarating, with both sides guilty of some bad misses and giving up easy possessions.

Dolenko continued to keep the scoreboard ticking for Thunder but Colbert, was proving immensely difficult to contain as he kept the Demons in the game.

Demons were doing their best to slow the game down, knowing that their squad wasn't as deep as Thunder's, and that disrupted the rhythm of Baker's side as they struggled to open up any significant lead.

However, they still held the advantage at half-time, with the scoreboard reading 53-51 in their favour.

The third quarter has been something of a game changer for Swords this season where they have tended to pour it on and stretch away from their opponents.

However, for reasons unknown they looked slightly flat in the Mardyke as Demons took the lead midway through the quarter thanks to an excellent three-pointer from O'Reilly. The Demons held on to that lead as the buzzer signalled the end of the third quarter, with Thunder now trailing 72-69.

In an exciting final quarter the Demons looked as if they had done enough to seal victory as they went five points up with less than 30 seconds remaining. However, an excellent three-pointer from Coombes and a two-pointer by Black drew the sides level with just seconds remaining.

With Demons point guard fouled out it looked good for Thunder, but then the referee made that controversial call and awarded a technical foul to the Demons to help the home side claim a last-gasp victory.

ALSAA is the venue for Saturday's top-of-the-table clash with Belfast Star - tip-off 6pm.

Fingal Independent