A few days late this week but we all know that good things come to those who wait! It’s a busy week in the premier league with two “catch-up” games being played. Remember we are constantly looking for updates from games along with photos/video/audio. If you have any media please get in touch!
Wednesday 15th Feb
Kilkeel Kinghts @ Belfast Star
One of the first posts on TCC was intended to feature this match-up however some lay-up line madness resulted in a smashed backboard and the game being put back to week 15. After a great start to the season the Knights are struggling with three double figure losses in a row. They travel to St Mals to face a team high on confidence after their comfortable victory over LYIT and the superleage squad’s epic win vs Killester in the past week. The Knights defeated Star by 17 early in the season but at home Star always have a full bench and this will be a different game.
Star will be hoping to a similar type of game to their win over LYIT when coach McGratten used his deep bench to ensure that there were always fresh legs on the court and that they will put constant pressure on the knights with an up-tempo style. The Knights will have a size advantage but Star are well used to playing undersized and I can’t see them losing this one.
Line: Belfast Star -6.5
Thursday 16th Feb
Queens Hornets @ LYIT
Queens’ away form has been indifferent since the Christmas break, beating league leaders the Ulster Elks away but also losing heavily to North Star and Dungannon. Letterkenny is the furthest they will have to travel and as it’s on a week night it makes it an even tougher task for the Hornets. A likely departure time of 5pm from Belfast will make it hard for some to get out of work (and for the students to get out of bed) so it is possible that they will travel with a weakened squad.
LYIT will be out for revenge after suffering a 20 point loss to the Hornets earlier in the season and will be looking to wipe away any lingering bad taste from the heavy defeat to Star last week. LYIT are 5-2 after a loss this season and also 5-2 at home so they have to be favourites despite Queen’s higher position in the table and the previous result. However, despite LYIT being favourites, Queens have the size to cope with LYIT’s Ger Murray and they will keep it close as long as LYIT don’t get too many open looks from three against the Hornet’s 2-3 zone. Seamus Hickey will also be a welcome return to the Donegal side and it could be a long drive back to Belfast for the students!
Line: LYIT: -4.5
Elks will be hoping that Matt McColgan will return from injury for the huge game with Dungannon
Thursday 16th Feb
Dungannon Cavilers @ Ulster Elks
The biggest game of the week and possibly season as, in my opinion, the Cavillers are the only team that can now stop the Elks winning the league. The Elks stand alone as the only team with 3 losses (the Cavs have 4 and the Hornets have 5) and a win here will put them 2 games ahead of all other teams with only a few games left to play.
This is the first of 2 meetings between these sides in the upcoming weeks with both games to be played at Jordanstown due to a double booking in Dungannon earlier in the season. Should the Cavs go 2-0 in this mini-series then they will be in the driving seat, a 1-1 split leaves the Elks still in control and a 2-0 record for the Elks would see them wrap up the top spot in the league. The Elks have an obvious advantage playing both games at home but the Cavs are a talented team which have the size to cause serious problems for the Elks.
This is likely to be a high scoring game, both teams play at a high pace and I expect the Cavs to struggle to contain the Elks dribble penetration whilst the Elks will have serious problems with the Cavs considerable size advantage. The Cavs don’t necessarily look inside as an initial option on offense but have the green light to shoot a lot of threes with the safety night of having one of the league’s best offensive rebounders in Simonas Bastakys. They key here will be Matt McColgan who is expected to still be out with a back injury. If he is missing I think that the Cavs will use their size to get the win they need to make it an exciting finish to the title race.
Line: Elks: +2.5
Saturday 18th Feb
North Star @ Andytown Tigers
This is a “must win” for the Tigers. With only 4 games remaining this is the Tigers best chance at picking up another ‘W’ to put pressure on Blackstone. After this game the Tigers have two tough away games at Kilkeel and Dungannon and a home game versus the league leaders UU Elks. North Star have a terrible away record having only picked up one win away from Derry all year, the first game of the season versus the Tropics, and the Tigers had a 10 point lead going into the fourth quarter when the sides last met. This is also a big game for North Star who will have 4 games in the space of 8 days and back to back games this weekend. Given the closeness of the league by Sunday night North Star could either be in line for a top four playoff berth or battling to stay out of the relegation spots.
Tigers struggle to cope with North Star’s two scoring guards, Kevin Stanley and Daryl Harkin, but the Derry side have trouble with their defense on the road and the Tigers will be confident after their win in La Salle versus Star. Another close one to be expected with the Tigers having a good chance of picking up a win that they desperately need.
Line: Tigers -3.5
Sunday 19th Feb
Kilkeel Knights @ Dungannon Cavilers
The Kilkeel Kinghts will have their hands full dealing with Mantas Mac on Sunday
This is the battle for Litunianian bragging rights as the premier leagues two all-Lithuinian teams go at it in the Dungannon Lesiure centre. Dungannon already picked up a win earlier in the season away at Kilkeel and will be confident that they can get a repeat result at home as they chase the Elks at the top of the league. Kilkeel are in a run of poor results but the derby atmosphere of playing the other Lituainian team should have them in a rejuvenated mood for the game.
Both teams have size and the Knights can cope with the Cav’s Simonas Bastakys better than most but Mantas Mac will pose problems for Kilkeel who will have to make sure and keep Arturas Kisielius out of foul trouble as they lack depth at the guard spots. With the league title on the line I can’t see the Cavs losing focus for this one and think at home will be too strong for the Knights.
Line: Dungannon Cavilers – 8.5
Sunday 19th Feb
Down Tropics @ North Star
This is a tough game to call for a number of reasons. When the sides met in the first week of the season it was a much different Tropics side that North Star faced, North Star have an excellent home record but will be coming off an away game to Andytown on the Saturday evening and the Tropics have been erratic to say the least, winning three in a row before losing at home to Ballymena and following that up with a heavy loss away to the Elks.
This one could come down to the role players as both teams rely on a pair of perimeter players for the majority of their points. If Celms and Calo are matched by Harkin and Stanley then it will be a battle between the likes of Paul McGuinness and Hugh Barbour going up against Daryl Downey and Brian Whann. As stated this one is almost too close to call and could easily go either way but ill give North Star the slight edge due to their excellent home form and deeper bench (Interesting statistic – seven different North Star players have at least two three pointers over the past three games.)
Line: North Star -0.5
Sunday 19th Feb
Belfast Star @ Ballymena Blackstone
The last game in a busy week in the BNI premier league sees Belfast Star head down the M2 to take on Blackstone. It’s only one of 2 home games left for Ballymena and if they are to make it into the playoff spots they will need a win here. After having trouble scoring earlier in the season Blackstone have averaged 82 points per game over the past four games and coach McKee feels that they are play much better basketball and are back at the level many expected them to be at all season. That does not bode well for Star as St Pat’s is a tough place to get a win even when Ballymena aren’t at their best.
Both teams have talent and although Star would have a deeper bench Blackstone’s home court advantage and recent improved form make them slight favourites.
Line: Ballymena Blackstone +2.5