The Portlaoise Panthers U-14 girls team were edged out by Tullamore.
Portlaoise U-14 girls qualified to the Top 4 finals and travelled to Tullamore on Saturday afternoon.
Portlaoise Panthers 43
Portlaoise had lost to this side twice in the league but knew they had more to give and another great battled ensued between these two sides.
Tullamore started the brighter and raced into an 11-2 lead early in the first quarter. Portlaoise were clearly nervous and were lacking composure around the basket. After a time out Ashling Fleming and Jill Johnston controlled the point and settled the girls.
Niamh Friel and Neassa Towey combined for a much needed score before Towey caught fire scoring another layup and draining a huge three to get Portlaoise back in the game.
Isobel Duff went strong to the board and was fouled, on the line she slotted away another vital score and at the end of the first quarter, Portlaoise trailed by seven points 17-10.
The second quarter saw the Portlaoise girls come out all guns blazing and stunned the Tullamore crowd. Aimee Lewis was the first to add a score as she drove to the basket and confidently slotted away a much needed score. This was the catalyst the team needed and opened the flood gate of scores.
Keeva Fingleton moved the ball expertly finding Eimear Marum who went strong to the board making the basket and the subsequent free throw.
Tullamore put pressure on the ball coming up the floor and Portlaoise found more cracks in the Tullamore defence which Caoimhe Sweeney exploited with another great score.
Portlaoise were on level terms with Tullamore before Keeva Fingleton walked in a lay-up to put Portlaoise ahead. Scores came tit for tat with the lead changing numerous times in the quarter.
Portlaoise’s Faith Umeh and Eimear Marum showed their strength in the closing moments of the second quarter with a flurry of scores to give Portlaoise the slenderestof leads at the half time whistle on a scoreline of 27-28 points.
The third quarter saw Tullamore increase their pressure on the Portlaoise side and they notched up three scores in quick succession. Faydagh Dunne spotted Niamh Friel on the break and gave an excellent pass for Niamh to finish at the basket.
Faith continued to run the lanes and clocked up another score for her side. Portlaoise had to work incredibly hard in defence as they chased and harried after every ball.
Mairead O’Byrne carried the ball with confidence and on an end line inbound made certain of another vital score for her side. Portlaoise trailed at the end of the third 40-33 points.
The last quarter saw both sides give everything they had. Niamh Friel started with a great score for her side. Eimear Marum and Neassa Towey combined to close the gap to six points but Portlaoise struggled to tighten the score line as the ball bounced from end to end with neither sides taking advantage.
Then a determined Caoimhe Sweeney made two great drives, scoring both to make it a two point game with under two minutes to play. The last two minutes were tense. Jill Johnston and Keeva Fingleton dished the ball from the top of the key finding Faith Umeh who showed great composure to finish with a score to draw the teams level.
Portlaoise found themselves in foul trouble and Tullamore punished them from the line but Portlaoise bit back with another great score from Umeh. Portlaoise trailed by a single point before Tullamore found themselves on the line again.
Making their second free throw Portlaise had one more throw of the dice to even the game but couldn’t manage to get the score off and after a valiant battle Tullamore came out on top 45-43. Great credit to both sides on a wonderful match.