O’Loughlins Panthers mens team continued their great run of form on Sunday evening at home to Litpol which keeps them in touch with the top four teams in the league and now have a realistic target of grabbing one of the spots in the Top 4 come the end of season.
This is the first meeting of these two sides since their Top 4 Division 2 final encounter last year in which the Panthers men were also victorious in after another long hard battle.
Litpol is a team made up of all Lithuanian nationals who bring a passion and high level of skill to the Midland League. In shooting guard Gediminas, Litpol have one of the best imports to ever play in the league and it was always going to be hard for the home side to keep him to a respectable score.
O’Loughlins Panthers raced out to an early 7-0 lead following a great finish inside from Conor O’Donovan followed up in the next offense with a big three pointer from Portlaoise’s own Lithuanian Gedimas Simkus.
Peter O’Sullivan stepped up to score the next two baskets for Portlaoise with a mid-range jump shot and a fast break lay-up. In reply Litpol looked to Gedimas to get the ball rolling and he duly obliged with his sides first seven points with a mixture of good shooting and drives to the board.
The home sides defense was tight and set up to contain the visitors outside threat which led to plenty of opportunities to break with Benny Carroll the beneficiary on the break. Conor O’Donovan wrapped up the scoring in the quarter with another basket under the board which gave the home side a three point lead heading into the second quarter.
With Portlaoise sticking in their man-to-man, help defense was key to containing Gedimas as every play seemed to work through him. While he continued to work to get free space to add to his own personal tally he also brought his team mates into the game and with Mindaugas stepping outside to drain two big three pointers, it was apparent that a change was quickly needed.
On the offensive end O’Loughlins Panthers were penetrating more from their set offense with both Benny Carroll and Peter Duignan linking up well. Between them they accounted for thirteen of their sides quarter total which was more than the opposition combined.
Duignan and Robbie Mc Sweeney were working well inside finishing strongly and more importantly putting Litpol in early foul trouble. The margin extended to nine points by half time with O’Loughlins leading 31-23 at the break.
The third quarter was much more even with Gedimas getting the better of the defense on numerous occasions scoring nine points in the process. This led to a quick time-out and a change of tactics with Panthers returning in a dog-and-box defense leaving O’Sullivan the task of containing the threat for the rest of the game which seemed to work, keeping him to just two points with great help from the rest of the defense.
At the other end further baskets inside the key from Duignan and O’Sullivan kept Panthers lead intact. Another big three pointer from Simkus gave Portlaoise an eight point lead going into the final ten minutes but the home side always looked in control of the game.
The fourth quarter wasn’t a forgone conclusion for the home side as Litpol came back at Panthers time and again. The introduction of Edmundas gave Litpol another outside threat as he drained two big three pointers to cut the lead to just six points halfway through the quarter. O’Loughlins Panthers stayed calm working through their plays and with Duignan in great form in the post, it gave Portlaoise a focal point to work through while he also added nine points to top score for Portlaoise with twenty three points.
Panthers saw out the game with some composed play to take the three points which pushes them further up the table and within touching distance of the leaders. The lads have a massive Cup semi final tie on Tuesday night against the club counterparts Club 23 Panthers but can go in on the back of some big wins of late.
O’Loughlins Panthers: Peter Duignan, Peter O’Sullivan, Benny Carroll, Gediminas Simkus, Conor O’Donovan, Robbie Mc Sweeney, Tiernan Dempsey, Paul Cahillane.