Portlaoise Panthers U-16 boys travelled to Old Leighlin on Sunday and suffered their first defeat of their Kilkenny League season in the process.
The boys came up against a much more physical outfit which proved the difference between the sides as Old Leighlin pushed out their lead in the second half.
Portlaoise Panthers started the game well scoring off their first two offensive plays with Dylan Phelan cutting through the defence to score his sides first two baskets. Old Leighlin replied straight away with their big inside players finding space under the baskets with Damien Bogacus scoring four baskets inside the key early on.
The visitors replied with two baskets following great individual driving moves to the baskets from Rian O’Connell. The quarter was close throughout but Old Leighlin took a two point advantage following another basket off an offensive rebound for Shane Dooley.
The defence had performed well as a group with Colm Byrne and Stephen McCabe forcing their players away from the board.
The second quarter was again an evenly matched period with both teams getting out on the break as often as possible. Portlaoise kept tight in their defence and this showed as only one Old Leighlin player scored in the quarter.
Panthers worked through their offences well with point guard Gary Morrissey takin the big men to the hoop and scored his first attempt while getting fouled on the second occasion.
Trevor Swayne was playing really well under the boards and added four points in the quarter.
James Phelan was playing smart basketball and picked his opportunities well in offence. Liam Keenan picked up the loose ball in defence and started off the break. The quarter ended a stalemate on nine apiece with Old Leighlin keeping their first quarter two point lead at the break.
The third quarter was the turning point of the game and unfortunately went in the favour of the home side. With only ten players Old Leighlin had the luxury of sending out their strongest side while Portlaoise, although a skillful five were physically inferior to the home team in the quarter.
Ben O’Reilly, Thoas Maher and Dylan Phelan tried extremely hard up top and defended well but Old Leighlin were catching offensive rebounds at will and began to extend their lead further. Portlaoise continued to fight and were really unlucky throughout the quarter with the roll of the ball not going in their favour. Free throws from Phelan and Morrissey kept Portlaouse within seven points going into the last quarter.
The fourth quarter was entertaining and played at a high intensity level with Portlaoise forced to press to try overturn the deficit.
Pierce Bolger Hinds pulled some great rebounds while Darren Moore ran the floor on the break finishing strongly to the basket.
It has to be sad that these players may lack height but have great skill and spirit to stay in the game. Unfortunately as Portlaoise pressed up the court but Old Leighlin’s experience shone through as they ran in a few easy baskets to take the game by twelve points.
Portlaoise still remain on top of the league but have another tough game on Monday against Waterford which is a must win game if they’re to remain in with a shot of the league title.
Portlaoise Panthers Team: Stephen McCabe, Liam Keenan, Trevor Swayne, Thomas Maher, Dylan Phelan, Colm Byrne, Darren Moore, Gary Morrissey, Rian O’Connell, James Phelan, Ben O’Reilly, Pierce Bolger Hinds.