O’Loughlins Panthers took on Legion Mullingar in the second mens semi final in Portlaoise on Sunday night and after leading for almost thirty six minutes of the game they relinquished their title to the new boys on the block.
This game was as good as the first semi final with both teams playing tough sporting basketball throughout which was a joy to watch. Portlaoise will be extremely disappointed to have lost the game but can be happy with the marked improvement in performance since their last two outings.
The Panthers men faced somewhat the unknown against this newly formed team which is made up of a panel of all nationalities but mainly of players from Lithuania. These guys know their basketball and have been the talk of the league to date with their massive wins since the season started.
But this Portlaoise team is made up of most of the treble winning team from last year and feared nothing going into the game and that was pretty evident in the excellent start they made to the game.
Portlaoise were first to score with Greg Dunne finding himself unmarked under the board. This was quickly followed up by four points by Shane Maughan whose pace was causing considerable problems for Mullingar.
Legion replied through captain Pronaitis from the three point line which turned out to be their first of fourteen from distance in the game.
It was noticeable that the visitors had a height advantage but Portlaoise were working extremely hard on defence keeping the big men off the boards. Eight points from Peter O’Sullivan extended O’Loughlins Panthers lead to ten by the end of the quarter on a scoreline of 19-9.
The second quarter was more of a shootout with both sides showing great accuracy from distance. In a high-scoring ten minutes the teams worked their offences to perfection working the ball inside and out.
Peter Duignan got the home sides first four points of the quarter but these were quickly cancelled out by Kraniauskas and Baranauskas. Gedas Simkus extended Panthers lead with two three pointers in a row but Legion came back with two of their own from Kraniauskas and Moleta.
The teams were evely matched all over the court and Portlaoise brought the half to an end with further scores from O’Sullivan and Duignan to give them a nine point lead, 41-32.
Legion came out all guns blazing in the third quarter and showed that if given space outside, they would fire at will. The visitors made five three pointers in the quarter which was always going to be difficult to match.
A further nine points from O’Sullivan on the drive kept his side just ahead throughout the period. Greg Dunne and Peter Duignan continued to work hard on offence and constantly gave the guards the opportunity to take on their defenders. Dunne also kept his own personal tally ticking over with another nice basket inside the key. Three points seperated the sides by the end of the third with Portlaoise just about keeping themselves out in front.
The final quarter was score for score early on but unfortunately for the home side Mullingar were still finding it to easy to get shots off and punished Panthers with four three pointers to give them their first lead of the game.
Even a switch to man-to-man couldn’t stop the threat outside and any time Portlaoise closed the gap they were hit with another sucker punch. It was O’Sullivan who again was threatening in offence as he brought his personal tally to 30 points in the game with further penetrating moves to the basket.
But Legion had just done enough and can thank their shooters for the victory as they pipped Portlaoise in an excellent game to reach the Midlands Cup Final in January.
O ‘Loughlins Panthers Team: Peter O’Sullivan, Peter Duignan, Shane O’Neill, David Keane, Gary Donnelly, Shane Maughan, Gedas Simkus, Greg Dunne, Evaldas Bertulis, Anthony Dunne.