Portlaoise Panthers U-14 team travelled to Old Leighlin in their first semi-final of the year. They knew they would be up against it from the start as Old Leighlin have gone unbeaten to date this year in the league easily disposing of Portlaoise earlier in the season.
Old Leighlin 41
Portlaoise Panthers 25
Panthers had nothing to lose and showed how much they have improved from the first match-up and only for a poor third quarter could have easily been challenging hard at the end of the game.
Portlaoise took time to settle into the game with Old Leighlin going strong from the start with a noticeable height advantage. However the visitors used their speed to their advantage and were unlucky early on to register scores with Liam Kinsella finding the rings unkind time and time again.
Old Leighlin got the ball rolling with three impressive baskets from point guard Mikey Bambrick with Liam Kinsella and Cian Nolan responding for the Panthers. Portlaoise were keeping Old Leighlin quiet with great defence from Martin Murray, Eli Mc Evoy and Jason Maher with the home side taking a six point lead after the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Portlaoise take the game to Old Leighlin with Paddy Farrell in impressive form scoring three great baskets inside. Their defence was equally as good with Liam Keenan and James Parker keeping their players out of the game. Jack O’Reilly and Conor Mc Kenna were controlling the game with both chipping in for late scores. Unfortunately Old Leighlin got a three point play late in the quarter to give them a three point lead at half time.
Portlaoise looked to keep the intensity going after the break but Old Leighlin came out all guns blazing with big-man Ronan Reddy getting up the floor at pace to beat the Panthers defence to score eight points in the quarter.
Portlaoise were finding it hard to contain the Old Leighlin offence despite the effort of Shane Buggie and Eoin Carey who had come into the game but as a team they were finding it hard to beat the home defence as Old Leighlin kept Portlaoise to a single score while racking up sixteen points in the quarter.
Portlaoise never gave up the fight and came out and won the final quarter but the damage was already done. A full court press forced turnovers and Conor McKenna and Jack O’Reilly took their chances. Again Cian Nolan was keeping the defence under control pulling some excellent rebounds with Jason Maher getting out on the breaks. Portlaoise can take heart in their performance and will hopefully bring this into their final games of the season.
Portlaoise Panthers Team: Liam Kinsella, Eli Mc Evoy, Liam Keenan, Eoin Carey, Martin Murray, Conor Mc Kenna, James Parker, Jason Maher, Patrick Farrell, Shane Buggie, Cian Nolan, Jack O’Reilly.