Last Saturday Portlaoise Panthers hosted the latest round of U-18 Boys Midland League.
The U-18 Boys section has gone from strength to strength over the last few years. There are seven teams competing in the age group this year which has resulted in it being a much more competitive league.
The addition of Kildare Gliders and Longford Falcons have been great and are challenging Portlaoise and Kestrels for the top spots.
In the first game of the day Portlaoise took on KIldare Gliders. This was their second meeting this season. Portlaoise came out on top in the previous meeting by the smallest of margins.
Portlaoise got off to the better start, their defence was working well and Gliders were finding it difficult to penetrate the zone defence. Their Coach Lenny McMillan had them playing an overload offence which gave them plenty of open shots.
Lucky enough for Portlaoise they were unable to hit the shots and it was affecting their confidence on the offensive end. Portlaoise, however, were moving the ball well on their offensive end.
Shane Maughan was again the main threat. His dribbling and shooting ability was causing Gliders considerable problems. Portlaoise opened up an eight point lead half way through the first quarter.
As the quarter continued Portlaoise upped their intensity and through Liam Kinsella and Shane San Augustine they opened up a fourteen point lead at the end of the quarter. Liam and Shane were both out fast on the break and finished strongly when given the ball.
At the start of the second quarter Gliders put on a full court press. Portlaoise were not expecting this and this resulted in Gliders turning the ball over and putting some scores up on the board. The difference between the teams was cut to eight points. Portlaoise set up a break press and this worked time after time.
With Portlaoise breaking the press with such ease Gliders were left vulnerable on defense. Conor O’Donovan and Dan Wolksi were working well together inside the paint. Both finished strongly when given the ball. Portlaoise once again opened up the lead to sixteen points at the end of the first half.
Portlaoise made some changes at the start of the third quarter. Pauric Tierney and Ryan Fitzpatrick came off the bench and both made an immediate impact. Their fresh legs added more intensity to the home sides defense. Gliders were finding it extremely difficult to make any headway into the Panthers lead.
Shane Maughan was again the main threat. His shooting from the open floor is a joy to watch and if this kid keeps developing at the rate he has done over the last two years he will be playing at a much higher level in a few years. Portlaoise went into the last quarter leading by twenty points.
The fourth quarter was a quiet affair with both teams running the bench. Conor Mckenna who is still U-16 came on for Portlaoise and hit some lovely shots. The game ended with Portlaoise running out winners by eighteen points on a score line of 58-40.