Star got out of the blocks well, with the new ‘numba 7’ Le John Smye connecting on his first three field goals including a trey to go 7-0 up. With Ethan Gibson playing his best game of the season, and Michael McWilliams & John Moran focused in on the job in hand, the starting 5 cantered off to a 12-2 lead by end of the first quarter, the highlight being a nice ‘oop’ to McWilliams from a side-line possession.
However, the tide turned in the second quarter, when Queens came roaring back, pouring in 16 unanswered points to take the lead, behind the strong play of Matthew Rooney & a few treys from Jordan McKinney. Eoin Nagle dug deep to steady the ship, and finally when Niall McGinnity got going Star got some momentum back and finally started to make some free-throws to sneak back into the lead by the half, 20-18.
Star finally started playing a bit more like themselves to start the third quarter, and with aggressive play and finally a bit of ball movement, started to carve out opportunities for themselves, and forcing Queens to foul, and by 2 minutes into the third quarter, team fouls were sending Star to the charity stripe. However, the team were unable to take advantage – they would end up missing 17 free throws over the game – and should really have put the game beyond reach. Inevitably, some calls started to go against them as so often happens when a team appears to be suffering a disadvantage, and Queens hung in to go into the final quarter only 3 behind.
Star pushed the lead out to 7 points, when a horrible call for an offensive foul on Le John - when he drew the foul and scored and walked to the line for his ‘and 1’ - was blown, and sure enough Queens went down the other end and hit a nice trey from Daniel Leggett – a big six point swing. To be fair, Leggett followed up with another trey from the same side, and it was a 1 point game again instead of being closed out at 10. The team regrouped again behind the solid play of Ethan Gibson and Eoin Nagle in the backcourt, and Niall McGinnity & Michael McWilliams at the 4 and 5, and after John Smye was fouled out with a few minutes to go, it was fitting that Niall scooped an offensive board to go ahead again, and Eoin connected on 1 of 2 freethrows to leave 3 in it. But it still wasn’t over yet, as Queens made one of two free throws, and when Star lost composure and turned the ball over off the ensuing in-bounds, Queens had a final chance to snatch a basket and send the game to overtime. One solid defensive play closed the game out, but not without a fright. Whilst nobody had a stand out game, Eoin Nagle was the deserved MVP with a very solid performance.
Plenty to reflect on for the team then, after this one. Whilst it was good to gut the ‘W’ out away from home against a good Queens team, the team needs to reflect on the mental lapses which caused multiple missed simple lay-ups, sloppy passing particularly from in-bounds, and of course a horde of missed free-throws. Hopefully the time allocated for shooting in the next training sessions will be taken with a bit more seriousness, as it nearly came back to bite the team in this close encounter with old friends.