It proved to be third time lucky for Templeogue as they got their hands on the Champions Trophy for the first time at DCU Sport on Sunday.
The Dubliners had lost this final on three of the last four occasions and they were determined not to do so again. In their way was a depleted Belfast Star team who were without the services of American All-Star Mike Davis.
The opening quarter was scrappy as both teams tried to get a stranglehold on the game. Matthew Jackson and Sergio Vidal both scored early as Belfast showed that despite missing the league’s leading scorer, they were still a force to be reckoned with.
On the other end Lorcan Murphy showed his high flying flair with an early dunk and American Dee Proby had some tough scores inside. At the end of ten minutes neither team had executed particularly well and Templeogue held the narrowest lead 17-16.
In the opening half of the second quarter Star suddenly faced a seven point deficit as Templeogue went on a 11-5 run. Puff Summers was causing issues and Jean Francois Basileu added six big points off the bench.
Despite Templeogue’s superior depth Belfast continued to attack and had joy through Conor Quinn and CJ Fulton.
Fulton created the biggest talking point of the first half as he penetrated into the key finding his seven foot big man Mike Thiep under the basket for a thunderous dunk that brought the basket down temporarily.
Thiep was having his best game of the year to date as he constantly altered shots as well as blocking an incredible five shots. As the halftime buzzer sounded Templeogue led by five 34-29.
The second half started slowly offensively for both teams but then great work from Neil Randolph and Lorcan Murphy saw Templeogue race out to a ten point lead at the end of the third. Mike Thiep had picked up his fourth foul and things were in danger of getting out of control for the Northern men.
The neutrals feared that without the high scoring Davis available that Belfast Star could struggle but they showed incredible character again at the start of the fourth. Facing into a double digit deficit the team again stood up to the test.
CJ Fulton who is still U17, again showed his amazing talent as he came up with a number of huge plays.
He made it to the free throw line to shoot three, before knocking down a step back three pointer to bring Star within two. A steal a=by Fulton leading to a layup by McGaharan brought the roof off as the game was suddenly tied with just five minutes to go.
Rather than worry the 2018 Cup Champions the run by Belfast Star seemed to wake the sleeping giant in Templeogue as they responded with a game defining 16-2 run.
Neil Randolph and Lorcan Murphy both came up with huge scores, while Stephen James and Jason Killeen also added in big moments. The core that had won the league two years ago and the cup last season were there to be counted on as things got tight.
Unfortunately for Belfast they didn’t have a response against the onslaught and they eventually fell away losing out on a scoreline of 77-62.
The scoreline not fully showing the closeness of the contest and the battling performance by the Belfast men. In the end though it was Jason Killeen of Templeogue who had the honour of lifting the Champions Trophy while Neil Randolph picked up the MVP honours.