Portlaoise Panthers ladies travelled to Castleisland Saturday night in the hope of qualifying for the play-offs with a game to spare.
LADIES NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION 1
Portlaoise Panthers 56
Portlaoise came up just short after a brilliant fight back from twenty points down in the third quarter but could only get to within four points before Castleisland closed the game out. It sets up a winner takes all final game in St. Marys hall next Saturday against Oblate Dynamos.
This game started at a frantic pace with both sides looking to stamp their authority on the match early on. It was clear to see from the off that Castleisland would push the ball inside to make use of their size advantage. Portlaoise found it hard to contain their opponents inside the key and were forced into early changes with Sharon Melia and Holli Dunne finding themselves in foul trouble. Scanlon and Daly combined for thirteen first quarter points with Portlaoise Panthers responding through two great baskets from Holli Dunne inside followed by two big three pointers from Maeve O’Sullivan leaving just one point between the sides at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter saw Castleisland dominate in defence with Panthers finding it hard to break down the dog-and-box set up by the home side. Twelve points was a small return for Portlaoise’s efforts while Castleisland pushed ahead with further baskets from both Scanlon and Daly. Portlaoise began to work the ball in offence but were unlucky with the final shot on numerous occasions. Sinead Melia kept the scoreboard ticking over with some fine moves to the board. Further baskets inside from Daly gave Castleisland a ten point lead at half time with Panthers still in the game.
Castleisland settled into the third quarter the quickest with Portlaoise again struggling to deal with the home side’s inside threat. Daly and O’Loughlin were causing all sorts of trouble with Portlaoise being forced to foul and send Castleisland to the free throw line. The home side pushed their lead out to twenty points midway through the quarter and with nothing to lose Portlaoise put on a full court press. The momentum switched in Portlaoise’s favour and they forced Castleisland into turnovers with Panthers closing the gap to thirteen points at the end of the quarter.
Portlaoise kept the full court pressure on for the final ten minutes, not allowing the home side any time to settle into their offence. The home side were somewhat rattled as Portlaoise picked away at their lead while playing excellent defence in the process. With under two minutes remaining Portlaoise had pulled the lead back to just four points but this was as close as they got as Castleisland punished Portlaoise from the line as the visitors were forced to foul to gain possession. Portlaoise will be disappointed with the result but can take heart in the way they came back ahead of their crunch decider against Dynamos next Saturday.
Portlaoise Panthers Team: Megan Dunne, Grainne Tomlinson, Maeve O’Sullivan, Mary Callanan, Deirdre Tomlinson, Sinead Melia, Holli Dunne, Catherine O’Sullivan, Sharon Melia, Edel Larkin.