Portlaoise Panthers progressed to the play-offs of the National League ladies competition despite their loss to National Cup champions Oblate Dynamos on Saturday night.
Portlaoise Panthers 64
Oblate Dynamos 67
A favourable result in Kerry put Panthers through on a better head to head record as League champions Tralee Imperials beat local rivals Castleisland. The ladies will go into that game in Tralee on the back of an excellent performance in front of a massive crowd in St. Marys hall despite falling short at the final whistle.
Portlaoise got off to the best possible start with a three pointer from point guard Maeve O’Sullivan which looked to have settled the home side into the game. This was quickly matched by Dynamos guard Maloney who got room off a good screen to drain a three.
Panthers put the pressure on full court from the tip-off which limited the time Oblates had on offence but the visitors experience saw them create space to get off another two big three pointers from Staunton and McKenna to give them a seven point lead early on. Portlaoise quickly bounced back on the break as they pushed the ball at every opportunity with Sinead Melia and Maeve O’Sullivan the beneficiaries.
As the game slowed down Portlaoise looked inside to Sharon Melia and Tracey Fallon who were showing strongly for the ball. Excellent movement in offence forced Dynamos to foul with Portlaoise scoring eight points from the line followed by a baseline jump shot from Karen O’Sullivan to give them a seven point lead after the first quarter on a scoreline of 25 – 18.
The second quarter was evenly matched throughout with both sides tightening up on defence. As the tempo of the game slowed down it became evident that Oblates would look to use their height advantage and go to work inside.
Massey was their main threat in the quarter scoring three baskets after great movement inside the key which drew her side level. Panthers responded by running through their offences and waiting patiently for the right options.
Scores inside by Edel Larkin and Sharon Melia kept Panthers in the game while Mary Callanan chipped in with a long range two pointer. Strong pressure on defence was keeping Portlaoise’s outside threat quiet and it took until late in the second quarter for sharp shooter Catherine O’Sullivan to get off her first three pointer which was all net.
Indiscipline on both sides meant that the quarter finished with free throws from Sinead Melia and Dynamos centre Jolie Niland. Portlaoise ended the half with a five point lead, scoreline 40-35.
The third quarter is always seen in basketball as a make or break quarter and this unfortunately turned the game in the visitors favour. Portlaoise worked tirelessly both ends of the floor but were not being rewarded on the scoreboard for their hard work.
Oblates on the other hand were clinical in their offences with Harrison punishing Panthers inside while Staunton was a constant threat on the drive. The home side found themselves notching up the fouls again giving Oblates the opportunity to push out a lead by the end of the quarter.
Portlaoise could only manage one basket from play in the quarter with the rest coming from the free throw line with Sinead Melia hitting four from four attempts. Oblates had worked themselves into a five point seven point lead by the end of the quarter.
Portlaoise Panthers went into the final quarter knowing that they would have to play for the full ten minutes to have a chance of closing out the game against such an experienced side. Mc Kenna was calling the shots from the point for Dynamos while also chipping in for the score at the right times. Portlaoise’s never say die attitude saw them step up the intensity once again on the full court press and they began to get their just rewards as Oblates began to turnover possession.
A fast break from Sinead Melia was followed by another great basket on the drive from the same player which kept them within touching distance of the visitors. Dynamos were keeping the scoreboard ticking over from the line as Portlaoise struggled to contain every threat inside the key. With under two minutes on the clock the game was still in the balance with Oblates still maintaining a seven point lead. Two converted free throws from Sinead Melia and a steal off the inbound saw Maeve O’Sullivan close the gap down to three points with the clock running down.
Two converted free throws at the other end by Staunton again put the lead out to five points. Again it was Sinead Melia who found herself at the line hitting her second and with pressure on the inbound, Panthers forced another turnover with Maeve O’Sullivan finding herself free beyond the arc and she drained the shot to cut the lead to just one point. Panthers were forced to foul with seconds left on the clock and Keach confidently stepped up to hit the two free throws.
Portlaoise had one last gasp effort but unfortunately the shot rimmed out leaving them three points adrift after a very exciting and entertaining game of basketball.
Both sides qualify from the game with Oblates now facing NUIG away while Portlaoise Panthers now face the trip to Tralee to take on the League champions next Saturday with the time to be confirmed. Whatever the outcome the ladies have had a fantastic season with some memorable wins along the way. Check out the club facebook page for further updates on next weeks semi final game.
Portlaoise Panthers Team: Megan Dunne, Grainne Tomlinson, Maeve O’Sullivan, Mary Callanan, Deirdre Tomlinson, Tracey Fallon, Sinead Melia, Holli Dunne, Catherine O’Sullivan, Karen O’Sullivan, Sharon Melia, Edel Larkin.