Portlaoise Panthers reached the Midland League Cup semi-finals last Thursday night after an outstanding second half performance gave them a convincing win against Athlone.
This game was the first game back after the Christmas break and it took some time for the home side to get going. Athlone were the first to register on the scoreboard with two long range shots from M Harte. Portlaoise responded on the fast break through Maeve O’Sullivan as Panthers looked to take the game to Athlone.
Edel Folan began to create space inside for the away side making it hard for the Portlaoise ladies to close her down. But again Portlaoise responded at pace with Deirdre Tomlinson and Catherine O’Sullivan finishing after some excellent passing down the court.
Taking a two point lead into the second quarter, Portlaoise looked to build on their great fast break play by creating more opportunities as the game settled down. A great inside move to the basket by Sharon Melia showed that the home side could also threaten from inside the arc and she was quickly assisted inside by Tomlinson twins Grainne and Deirdre as both registered scores at the end of patient offences. Panthers took a nine point lead in at half time with Athlone still showing signs that they could make a comeback.
The third quarter saw the game totally change in favour of the home side as Portlaoise totally dominated inside on offence with centre Sharon Melia and post Deirdre Tomlinson scoring all but one basket in the quarter. At the other end Portlaoise upped their defensive play with Sinead Melia and Emer Conroy leading from the top with Athlone only managing three baskets in the ten minute period.
Portlaoise had doubled their lead by the end of the third quarter and continued to pour on the pressure as Coach Joe Keenan rotated his team keeping his players fresh. Again the Portlaoise ladies concentrated hard on defence winning almost every rebound while working the ball forward with both Catherine and Maeve O’Sullivan finishing strongly on the break.
Portlaoise Panthers won out on a scoreline of 69-36 after managing to keep Athlone to two points in the final quarter. They will now go on to meet Killeen in the semi final aiming to keep up their great form.
PORTLAOISE: Maeve O’Sullivan 9, Catherine O’Sullivan 15, Deirdre Tomlinson 21, Grainne Tomlinson 4, Sharon Melia 12, Sinead Melia 8, Emer Conroy, Jackie Costello, Grainne Mc Glade. Coach Joe Keenan.