On Friday night 30th November in the Ladies Division 1 Midland League, Portlaoise Panthers took on their toughest opponents Ballyroan in a home derby in St. Mary’s Hall Portlaoise. This has proved a hotly contested fixture for the past three seasons and with a good crowd in attendance, the scene was set.
Ballyroan started well in the first quarter putting the Panthers on the back foot in the opening minutes with some great scores from Jean Mc Evoy and Tracey Fallon. Portlaoise Panthers opened their scoring with a three point shot from Catherine O’Sullivan and began to settle into the game. It went basket for basket for much of the opening ten minutes and at the break Ballyroan lead the way 15-14.
Coach Peter O’Sullivan had some stern words for his players and put some plays in place to counteract the Ballyroan 3-2 zone defence. Panthers seemed to have a spring in their step in the second quarter and with some outstanding baskets from Sinéad Melia and fast break lay-ups by Maeve O’Sullivan, they found themselves ahead at the half 29-23. Panthers knew at the break that they had to keep Ballyroan’s tops scorers at bay if they were to increase their lead. Ballyroan’s number 9 Tracey Fallon and number 12 Jean McEvoy scored 19 of their 23 points in the first half.
In the third quarter a strong man-to-man defence with full deny on selected players gave Portlaoise the momentum and the fast breaks needed to increase their lead. Deirdre Tomlinson and Sharon Melia had a very strong quarter driving to the board which freed up the space needed for the outside shooters to spot up. There were debuts from two of the clubs underage players Shauna Burke and Claire Dollard in the game and both of the girls showed huge promise for the future. Jackie Costello and Gráinne Tomlinson both owned the boards in the second half and a 47-31 lead at the end of the third quarter pretty much sealed the deal for the Portlaoise ladies. The Panthers kept the Ballyroan top scorers to five points in the second half and went on to win the game 68 points to 44.