On Saturday night Portlaoise Panthers National League team hosted NUI Galway Mystics in St Mary’s Hall Portlaoise in their first home game of the season. The game was sponsored by Emo Oil, Portlaoise.
After a very disappointing opening game against Donegal, this home game was very much about putting in a performance for the team. The NUI Galway Mystics had a very impressive line up including former Irish Internationals Neasa O’Keefe and Hannah Coen and so the scene was set in Portlaoise for a very competitive game in front of a packed St. Mary’s Hall.
A quick pace was set by the Portlaoise ladies from the outset and the comfort of playing on their home court was evident from the opening few minutes of the game. They pushed hard with some great drives to the basket from Deirdre Tomlinson and outside shooting by Edel Larkin, Sinéad Melia and Catherine O’Sullivan. With a spring in their steps, the girls found themselves ahead at the end of the first quarter 26-19.
In the second quarter the NUI Galway Mystics stepped it up another level and the strength of their inside players proved difficult for the Portlaoise players to handle. Their number 14 Hannah Coen scored 14 points in the first half with a combination of strong inside play and outside shooting and kept her team in the game. They out scored Portlaoise in the second quarter and only trailed by 4 points at the break.
The Panthers knew that they had to keep the pace of the game up and to release the ball on the fast break as much as possible in the third quarter. Despite some excellent outside shooting by Catherine and Maeve O’Sullivan at the beginning of the quarter, Galway clawed their way back into the game and lead by three points at the end of the third, 57-54.
Portlaoise knew going into the last quarter that it was all or nothing. They rallied hard for the first 8 minutes of the quarter, stepping up their zone defence and not allowing Mystics to get anything without a fight. Sinéad Melia, Tracey Fallon, Maeve O’Sullivan and Edel Larkin got the all important last quarter baskets to push them level with 30 seconds left on the clock.
Maeve O’Sullivan then brought the ball up the court for the last play of the game and with 18 seconds remaining she got fouled and got sent to the line for two free throws to put the team ahead and to add to her huge tally of 24 points. Under nail-biting pressure she sank both shots and the shots were followed by the challenge of ensuring Mystics did not score to level. On their inbound play Mystics stepped over the line, handing the last play of the game to Portlaoise. The Panthers ladies ran an inbound play which ended up in the solid hands of Tracey Fallon and she was immediately fouled and sent to the line. She sank one of her shots, sealing the win and sending a fantastic crowd home delighted with a score line of 68-65.
A total of 10 three point shots by Panthers in the game, kept all of the supporters on the edge of their seats until the final seconds and the performance of the Panthers on the night was fueled by the absolutely fantastic support of a great home crowd. This team performance was a massive improvement from the first game of the season and there is definitely more to come.
Team: Megan Dunne, Aoife Donoghue, Maeve O’Sullivan, Mary Callanan, Deirdre Tomlinson, Tracey Fallon, Sinéad Melia, Holli Dunne, Catherine O’Sullivan, Karen O’Sullivan, Sharon Melia, Edel Larkin.
Coach: Joe Keenan.