O’Loughlins Panthers travelled to Galway on Saturday evening to take on NUIG Mystics knowing that a victory would cement their place at the top of the table over the Christmas period.
The Portlaoise ladies had to fight until the finish to grind out the win against an NUIG side that had defeated Portlaoise in the same fixture last season.
This victory now leaves O’Loughlins Panthers six points ahead in the table and looking good ahead of their National Cup quarter final against Tom Mc Carthys Castleisland in Portlaoise this Sunday.
The game got off to a great start with both sides setting up in a zone defence to counter the threat of both inside players but this was putting pressure on the guards to work harder in defence.
Portlaoise quickly settled into the game with their sharp shooters finding their range with Maeve O’Sullivan and sister Catherine combining for fourteen points in the quarter. Mystics were also accurate from range and replied with baskets from their American Michelle Mc Caughern and Murray who combined for eleven of their sides quarter total.
Both sides switched up in defence to man to man at the end of the first to stop the onslaught from outside. Portlaoise took an 18-13 lead in after the first quarter.
The second quarter was rather frustrating for the Panthers ladies as they relinquished their lead following a run of baskets from the home side.
The Portlaoise man to man was leaking scores with Murray scoring seven unanswered points to take the lead. The visitors were forced back into a zone defence which tightened up the defence and allowed them to own their own boards and close out the second chances.
Panthers began to find space inside in offence with Nicola Farrell and Sinead Nihill registering their first scores of the game. Further baskets by NUIG players Lyons and Martin gave them a four three point lead at the break.
Following a lengthy discussion at half time the Portlaoise girls emerged a changed side intent on gaining back the advantage once again.
As Mystics looked to pressure the Portlaoise guards, the post pairing of Nicola Farrell and Tracey Fallon completely dominated the quarter inside the key combining for twelve points while setting up their outside players for the other seven points.
In defence The Panthers ladies pin-pointed the Mystics threats and the home side struggled to just seven points in the quarter. Portlaoise were working extremely hard in defence with Sinead Melia and Sharon Regan getting their hands to everything and not giving an inch to the opposition.
This gave Portlaoise a lead of nine points going into the final quarter but Portlaoise knew the game was far from over.
The fourth quarter was played at a frantic pace to start with Portlaoise again gaining the advantage on the break with Tracey Fallon and Sharon Regan filling the lanes and taking their scores. A long three pointer from O’Sullivan gave the visitors a double digit lead for the first time in the game and allowed them to concentrate on defence while slowing the game down in offence.
Portlaoise changed up the defence to finish with three post players and this shored up the centre and left them shooting from distance. Mystics could only manage five points in the quarter as Portlaoise pushed on to victory by seventeen points and sitting at the top of the National League. Portlaoise must now concentrate on their cup run as they take on Castleisland this Sunday at home at 3pm.
O’Loughlins Panthers: Maeve O’Sullivan, Sharon Regan, Nicola Farrell, Michelle Hart, Catherine O’Sullivan, Jackie Coleman, Sharon Melia, Sinead Melia, Tracey Fallon, Sinead Nihill, Grainne Tomlinson.