O’Loughlins Panthers played host to IT Carlow on Saturday night in the next round of matches in the ladies National League.
Both teams are in the mix at the top of the league with both sides having had only one loss each before tip-off but it was the home side who kept their impressive run intact with a comprehensive forty five point win over their local rivals.
Panthers controlled the game from start to finish playing some fantastic team basketball in the process. The ladies have one more home game before Christmas pencilled in for this Saturday night in St Marys hall where they’ll look to make it four from four in December against St Marys Castleisland.
The first quarter started well for both sides in offence with the teams going score for score with Aisling Hayden and Holli Dunne getting Carlow IT quickly off the mark.
In reply Nicola Farrell got Panthers first three scores dominating under the boards. With IT Carlow sitting back in a zone defence, quick ball movement by the home side in offence created space for Catherine O’Sullivan to nail two big three pointers.
But most of Portlaoise’s scores were coming on the break as they pounced on bad passes and broke in numbers with Sinead Melia and Sharon Regan accounting for eight points between them on the break in the quarter.
Two further scores from Dunne and Hayden was all that IT Carlow could manage as Portlaoise’s tactics of taking the visitors main threat out of the game was working brilliantly as Hayden was left to feed off scraps. O’Loughlins Panthers took a 26-7 lead after the first quarter.
The home side showed their strength in depth in the second quarter as with changes came scores with Sharon Melia and Sinead Nihill entering the game and straight onto the scoresheet with three well taken shots around the key.
This quarter was also IT Carlows most productive on the offensive end with Aisling Hayden scoring eight of her sides total with most of it coming from great offensive rebounding and finishing strongly to the hoop. But it was again on the break out that Portlaoise were getting their scores with Sharon Regan on the end of two fast break moves.
The re-entry of Nicola Farrell to the game brought back a threat on offence and she quickly got herself back on the scoresheet again following some excellent pick and roll play with the guards.
Farrell added a further six points to her tally but also picked up her fourth foul which would see her again leave the game until the fourth quarter. O’Loughlins Panthers took a deserved twenty four point lead in at the break on a scoreline of 47-24.
The third quarter saw Portlaoise pull further ahead with the home side putting in their best team display of the year throughout. They picked off great options in their offensive play and were also holding IT Carlow to a very low score at the other end.
The O’Sullivan sisters came to life in the third quarter accounting for seventeen of their sides twenty three points in the period. The scores came from all over with three three pointers, free throws and moves to the board. With Aisling Hayden being well marshalled, IT Carlows reply came from the Dunne sisters with Holli going to work inside and Megan getting her first score of the game from the three point line.
Sinead Nihill showed what she can bring to the party with another two baskets inside the key to bring the quarter to a close and put the game beyond the visitors.
With Aisling Hayden exiting the game through injury IT Carlow looked lost in offence and could only manage a solitary score in the final quarter. It was also Panthers least productive on the offensive end but gave the home side the chance to work through their moves while giving court time to each player.
By midway through the quarter Portlaoise coach Peter O’Sullivan was happy to see all his panel getting themselves on the scoresheet for the first time this season with Michelle Hart and Jackie Coleman going to work down low in offence while Catherine O’Sullivan added a further two three pointers to her own tally of scores giving her a game high twenty three points.
Nicola Farrell finished the game with another four points to give O’Loughlins Panthers another brilliant win on a scoreline of 84-39. Panthers will look to kick on again next weekend against Castelisland in what will be their third meeting in three months with not much between the sides on the other two occasions.
A win on Saturday would see Portlaoise take a massive step in their run to the top of the league with only four games to play after the Christmas break.
O’Loughlins Panthers Team: Sharon Regan, Maeve O’Sullivan, Michelle Hart, Deirdre Tomlinson, Tracey Fallon, Sinead Nihill, Sinead Melia, Catherine O’Sullivan, Jackie Coleman, Sharon Melia, Nicola Farrell.