On Sunday night team Club23 Portlaoise welcomed league leaders Ballon Rock to St Mary’s hall in what was an eagerly anticipated top of the table clash.
Mens Midlands League Division 1
Club23 Panther 74
The Portlaoise outfit were hoping to keep their unbeaten run in the league intact. In the return fixture before Christmas team Club23 came away with a hard fought win.
As the game started both teams showed why they were two of the form teams in the league with some quality fast break basketball. Chris Higgins has become a very important member of the Portlaoise outfit since his return from the GAA fields last year.
This was one of, if not his best display in the Panthers jersey on both ends of the floor. He was given the tough task of picking up Ballon’s danger man Audrius Paulenikius. On offence his pace and strength was proving very affective. He finished off some great moves throughout the quarter.
Benny Carroll controlled the game from the outset and despite his young age he showed coolness with his display. Craig Scully was fighting hard inside the paint and his rebounding was the key in all that Portlaoise did. The quarter ended with Portlaoise leading 20-16.
In the second quarter Portlaoise stuck with the same game plan running the ball at every opportunity. Ballon rock kept the score board ticking over with some great shooting from beyond the arc.
Portlaoise scored 19 points in this quarter with all the points coming from the Scully brothers and their cousin Chris Higgins. Higgins and Scully combined brilliantly for some great baskets throughout the quarter. At half time Portlaoise lead 39-31.
Once again there was a big crowd in attendance for this game and the support played a big part in the lads performance throughout the game. In the third quarter Jack Dooley was introduced and he did not take long to put his mark on the game with some great offensive plays. Dooley is capable of scoring from anywhere.
On his first play he took the ball strong to the board and on his next opportunity he nailed a big three pointer from the corner.
Scully continued to do damage inside and was sent to the line on numerous occasions and he made them pay with some great free throw shooting. Portlaoise won the quarter by ten points.
As the fourth quarter began Portlaoise showed a small bit of inexperience. They had a very commanding league but after three minutes Ballon had cut the lead to ten points. Portlaoise forced the ball and some passes went astray. The reintroduction of Benny Carroll gave the Portlaoise outfit some stability.
Higgins and Scully kept the board ticking over. Ballon hit some big three pointers and with three minutes left the lead was cut to five. Ballon continued to foul and Portlaoise made them pay from the line, the game ended with Portlaoise winning 74-67. This side are right in the hunt for the league after ten games. There next game is away to Athy next Friday.
Club23 Panthers Team: Jack Scully, Craig Scully, Chris Higgins, Evan Maher, Jack Dooley, Kevin Donoghue, Paul Leigh, Mark Bartley, Kyle Burke, Benny Carroll.