Portlaoise ladies Division 1 team got their midland league season off to a great start with a home win against a strong Longford Falcons team. It took a solid third quarter performance from the Panthers team to tip the scales firmly in their favour and they saw out the game in the last to take the victory.
The first quarter was a very even affair as both sides tried to stamp their authority early in the game. Excellent individual play from Deirdre Tomlinson saw her register seven points early on as she got the better of her marker time and again. Longford were also clinical in offence with Eimear Dooley keeping her side in touch with two great drives and a nice three pointer. With the sides even and seconds left on the clock, the home side quickly moved the ball up the court which was finished off with a massive three pointer from Maeve O’Sullivan.
Longford came out firing on all cylinders early in the second and great play inside from Sarah Madden and Helen Flanagan gave their side the lead. Longford also closed up their defence making it very difficult for Portlaoise to penetrate in offence. Unfortunately for Longford indiscipline set in leading to the home side punishing them from the free throw line. The introduction of new recruits Sarah Phelan, Shauna Burke and Joanne Kelly helped in increasing the pressure in defence while in offence Burke constantly found herself going to the line as she caused problems inside for Longford. A good finish to the quarter for Eimear Dooley gave the Longford ladies a three point lead at the half.
The third quarter was totally dominated by the Portlaoise ladies who outscored Longford by eighteen points while holding them to three points. Panthers upped the pace of the game both ends of the floor and precision finishing from Sinead Melia and Maeve O’Sullivan quickly saw the home side gain momentum. Brilliant defensive play under the boards by Sharon Melia saw off the threat of Falcons inside threat. Portlaoise stormed into a fifteen point lead by the end of the third.
Portlaoise started the fourth quarter with a big three pointer from Catherine O’Sullivan off the first offence which was quickly followed up by a three point play from her sister Maeve. With such a strong bench to choose from, Portlaoise brought on the experienced Jackie Coleman and newcomer Aine Fitzpatrick who settled straight in. Both were major threats in offence with Coleman finishing off the game with a basket inside to give the Panthers ladies a sixteen point lead at the end.
Portlaoise Panthers Team: Sarah Phelan, Aine Fitzpatrick, Maeve O’Sullivan, Grainne Tomlinson, Deirdre Tomlinson, Jackie Coleman, Sinead Melia, Joanne Kelly, Catherine O’Sullivan, Sharon Melia, Shauna Burke. Coach: Joe Keenan.