Portlaoise Panthers exited the National Cup on Saturday after a disappointing second half performance was punished by the more experienced Killester women. In what was a very low scoring game for this level, it was Killester who used their experience and strength to see them over the line.
Killester settled straight into the game with Elaine O’Neill taking advantage of the space given up top accounting for her side’s first six points. Panthers replied through Tracy Fallon and Sinead Melia who found space after well worked offences. Killester continued to pile on the pressure and had extended their lead out to seven points before Maeve O’Sullivan drained two massive three pointers to pull her side within one point. The final minutes remained tight with Killester adding a point to their lead and took a two point advantage after the first quarter with the scoreline 14-16.
The second quarter was another tight ten minutes with both defences beginning to get the upper hand on their opposite numbers. Portlaoise went to work inside the key as their outside threat remained limited with Holli Dunne and Sharon Melia converting well under the boards. Portlaoise also stepped up their efforts in defence with Mary Callanan limiting the clean ball into Killester’s big centre Lisa Rubbathan and Catriona White who were being well marshalled by both Karen O’Sullivan and Deirdre Tomlinson. Two free throws at the end of the half from Sinead Melia left a single point between the sides and all in attendance hoped that Panthers would come out all guns blazing in the second half.
Unfortunately for the home crowd the third quarter didn’t turn out as they had hoped for as Killester upped their intensity in defence. This was tough and physical defence, the likes of which the Panthers girls have not faced in a very long time. Killester pushed out their lead to seven points in the first three minutes of the quarter. Both sides were beginning to frustrate each other with no ground given throughout; time and again the 24 second clock ran out for both teams. Again Portlaoise looked inside the key for their scores and only managed five points in the quarter with Tracy Fallon and Holli Dunne pitching in. Portlaoise’s defence was the only thing keeping them in the game as Killester could only register eleven points in reply in the quarter, giving them a seven point lead going into the last quarter.
The fourth quarter started positively for Portlaoise as they were the first to make a move with the impressive Tracy Fallon ripping through the Killester defence. But unfortunately this was the last score from play for the home side as they struggled to break down a solid Killester defence. Portlaoise seemed to run out of ideas as the pressure intensified.
Again, only for strong defensive play at the other end, this game could have turned into a rout. Killester continued to work the ball into their inside players with Portlaoise having to foul to stop the offence. Killester were clinical from the free throw line and pushed their lead out to a well earned seventeen point victory. Portlaoise will definitely learn from this cup experience and will hopefully come out of it stronger ahead of their next National League game this weekend in Tralee.
Portlaoise Panthers Team: Megan Dunne, Maeve O’Sullivan, Mary Callanan, Deirdre Tomlinson, Tracy Fallon, Sinead Melia, Holli Dunne, Catherine O’Sullivan, Karen O’Sullivan, Sharon Melia. Coach: Joe Keenan.