O’Loughlins Panthers ladies National League team were brought back down to earth with a defeat to league title rivals Oblate Dynamos in Inchicore on Sunday evening.
After the highs of winning the National Cup the previous Sunday, the girls were expected to push on and cement their place at the top of the league. Oblates had other ideas and controlled the tempo of the game for the most part while totally dominating on the defensive end for the entire first half.
Their first half seventeen point lead proved too much to claw back and Dynamos held on for an eight point victory to put them right in contention for league honours at the end of the year.
Portlaoise started the first quarter by scoring the first basket of the game through Sinead Melia who also added a free throw on a three point play.
Oblates quickly cancelled out this score with a three pointer from Behan. The visitors replied again with five points from Nicola Farrell who was causing major problems inside the key for the Dubliners defence.
Oblates worked the ball around quickly on offence and were finding free players too easily with Kate Maloney making the most of her opportunities hitting two big three pointers in a row to give her side an early lead that they would never relinquish.
Although Portlaoise were working hard both ends of the floor, their work on offence was going unrewarded as the final shot failed to drop time and again. To their credit Dynamos were playing extremely intense defence which often verged on the edge of the foul.
This defence gave them the opportunity to break and Georgina Mc Kenna took full advantage of this. A further four points from Sinead Melia closed the gap down to six points by the end of the first quarter.
A switch of defence to a 3-2 zone was applied by Portlaoise to counter the shooting game of the home team. This worked out well for a short time until Oblates again tore holes in the defence to extend the lead out to double digits. But it was Oblates defence that was frustrating the visitors with Maloney doing a superb job of keeping Portlaoise captain Catherine O’Sullivan out of the game.
Panthers were finding it tough to break down the defence and opportunities were at a premium with only six points scored by Portlaoise in the quarter. At the other end Oblates continued to find space to convert and they pushed out to a twenty point lead in the quarter with Portlaoise shell-shocked.
A late change to man-to-man finally closed out the spaces in the Panthers defence but they still found themselves seventeen points down at the half time break.
After taking a bruising both physically and mentally in the first half the Portlaoise girls needed to dig deep to try and get themselves in a position where they could challenge late on for the win. Their defence stepped up and pressured the Dynamos offence causing turnovers.
Portlaoise had nothing to lose and it was Melia again who took the game to Oblate and rattled off eight points in the quarter shooting four from four on the free throw line. The reintroduction of Sinead Nihill and Sharon Regan increased the pressure on defence and held Oblates to their lowest scoring quarter of the game. With the home side once again on team fouls Portlaoise found themselves on the line the stats didnt read well missing three eight from fourteen in the quarter.
It was important for Panthers to be more clinical and close the gap down further as they still left themselves a mountain to climb in the final quarter. They took four points off the half time lead to leave them thirteen points in arrears with just ten minutes remaining.
The fourth quarter started well for the visitors as they were putting the same pressure on Dynamos as was put on them in the first half. Two baskets on the break from Maeve O’Sullivan and excellent inside play from Sinead Nihill took the lead to below ten points.
Further baskets from Nihill from range had the lead as low as seven points with under five minutes on the clock. A shot from beyond the arc from the impressive Maloney was the killer blow for Portlaoise and this was quickly followed by a lay-up off a steal by Teresa Harrison. The comeback was now off the cards but the Panthers girls continued to play tough but had just left too much to do and Oblates took a deserved victory by eight points to close the gap at the top of the National League table to three. Oblates have a game in hand and if they win next weekend will join Portlaoise at the summit of the table.
O’Loughlins Panthers: Grainne Tomlinson, Sharon Regan, Maeve O’Sullivan, Jackie Coleman, Deirdre Tomlinson, Tracey Fallon, Sinead Melia, Sharon Melia, Sinead Nihill, Catherine O’Sullivan, Nicola Farrell.