Portlaoise Panthers National League Ladies team continued their winning form with a great comeback win on the road to Castleisland on Saturday night.
Castleisland recently added American Mia Hopkins to their squad and the team are putting up some big performances, so a tough task was always at hand.
The first quarter was a very casual affair with both teams struggling to settle into the game. Catherine Ashe hit Portlaoise’ first five points of the game. Meabh Barry and Lorraine Scanlon hit scores for Castleisland as both teams found it tough to convert on the offensive end.
It was obvious it was going to be a hard-hitting game as the home team were being very physical and trying to limit Claire Melia’s chances inside the key. Claire and Sinead Melia hit a couple of field goals followed by big three from Maeve Cahillane. The score line was low at the end of the first at 14-8 in favour of Portlaoise.
The pace of the second was a lot more intense as Portlaoise tried to run the floor on transition. Ciara Wheeler and Jamie Sherburne were constantly pushing the ball which led to Wheeler converting some chances of her own. Ciara Byrne and Sharon Melia got on the scoreboard as the fouls kept coming from Castleisland.
Sinead Melia and Catherine Ashe also contributed during the quarter. However, Mia Hopkins stepped it up a gear for the home side as Portlaoise struggled to deal with her strength and pace. She converted nine points in the quarter. Some poor turnovers resulting from a full court press left Portlaoise only up by one at halftime on a score line of 29-28.
The third quarter was a poor one for Portlaoise. The two teams became more efficient on the offensive end, but it was Castleisland who capitalised more on some poor defence. Hopkins and Denise Dunlea began to hit big three pointers and pushed Castleisland into a big lead.
Claire Melia hit some scores for Portlaoise, but it was Sinead Melia who was keeping the team at distance as she was a constant thorn in the home side. She converted ten points of her own in the quarter but Portlaoise still trailed by nine going into the last 54-45.
Castleisland yet again came out the stronger in the last quarter and pushed themselves out to a 62-47 lead with seven minutes to play. A quick adaption in defence really saw Portlaoise flourish as Castleisland really struggled. Shauna Dooley and Sinead Melia had big quarters here as they pressured hard and reaped the rewards on the offensive end.
The last minute of the game was frantic both teams were being put to the free throw line, but it was Portlaoise who won this battle with Dooley, Wheeler, Sinead and Claire Melia all converting their scores. Portlaoise outscored the home team 22-3 in the last seven minutes to win on a score line of 69-65.
This was a game that the team showed true grit and determination to comeback from a large deficit. Sinead Melia scored a game high 27pts and the whole team contributed to this hard-fought win.
They now have a huge game next weekend as it is the National Cup semi-final vs Ulster Elks. Elks are an excellent team and may be slight favourites for the game but Portlaoise will battle to the end. All support is appreciated in Neptune Stadium @ 8pm on Saturday 12th January.