In the first game of a double-header last Saturday, Portlaoise U-20s looked very rusty as they came up against what turned out about to be a very understrength Tullamore outfit, and they were struggling to get to grasps with the game in the early exchanges.
Jack Dooley was causing the Tullamore defence all sorts of problems, rebounding well and finishing strong. As the game progressed Portlaoise began to get to grips with the game and took complete control.
Kyle Burke was working hard under his own boards and Shane Maughan and Benny Carroll were finishing strong on the fast break. Conor Dunne came off the bench to make a big impact on the game.
His physical power going to the boards was tough for the Tullamore defender. Portlaoise opened up a 17 point lead going into the last quarter that would never be breached. The game ended with Portlaoise running out 77-60 winners. Jack Dooley was the undoubted star of the show with 35 points to show for his efforts.
Portlaoise Panthers 66
In the second game of the day Portlaoise took on Kestrels. Kestrels had beaten Tullamore by twenty five points earlier on in the day. Portlaoise knew if they wanted a result they would have to up their performance ten fold.
After his performance in the first game Conor Dunne was selected to start the game, and Conor paid his coach back with a fantastic performance. Portlaoise coach Jack Scully felt his lads were physically bigger and stronger than the Kestrels counterparts. He set the lads up in a 2-3 zone defence hoping the opposition shots would be off and that his side could collect some easy rebounds. The game started and it was obvious Portlaoise were up for the game.
Jack Dooley and Conor Dunne were on fire from beyond the arc, both hitting big three pointers. Benny Carroll and Shane Maughan worked tirelessly in defence making all the Kestrels players shots as difficult as possible.
The trio of Conor Dunne, Jack Dooley and Kyle Burke totally dominated the boards on both ends of the floor. Conor Dunne continued to torment the oppositions defence, he was running the floor strong and drawing fouls and more importantly he was punishing the fouls from the free throw line. Portlaoise went into the half time break leading 41-19.
The half time scoreline was not what anyone in attendance expected it be. Portlaoise had to keep calm and put in a second half performance that matched the first half. Kestrels would not lie down and take this easy.
As the third quarter started Portlaoise kept piling on the pressure. Jack Dooley and Kyle Burke fought for every 50/50 ball inside which resulted in Portlaoise winning prime possession.
Maughan and Dunne made the lads hard work worth while converting on the fast break. Benny Carroll has proved this season that he has a bright future and that he is the most talented point guard the club has seen in a few years. He was a constant thorn in the Kestrels side, his control and intelligence at the top of the key set up score after score for his side.
As the game was coming to an end it became clear this was going to be Portlaoise’s day. All five players were in double digits at the end of the game which is a great return from any side. Portlaoise ran out 66-44 winners.
Portlaoise Panthers Team: Jack Dooley, Kyle Burke, Shane Maughan, Conor Dunne, Benny Carroll, Evan Maher Robbie Mc Guinness,Tiernan Dempsey, James Dunne. Coach: Jack Scully.