O’Loughlins Panthers Ladies team got their National League season off to the best possible start away to Oblate Dynamos in Inchicore on Sunday afternoon.
This was an excellent team display both ends of the floor with Panthers’ newest recruit stealing the show on the offensive end scoring a career high fifty points.
This is an extraordinary feat by any individual but this was Kelsey Wolfe’s first time to play a competitive game with her new club which makes it all the more impressive. The calibre of opposition also adds to this victory as Oblate had a very hard fought victory in their opening match of the campaign against a much-fancied NUIG Mystics side.
This was a highly competitive opening game of the season for Portlaoise and their strong final quarter proved the difference between the sides as they took the points with an eighteen point margin.
Following last years defeat to Oblates at the same venue back in February and in this years pre-season tournament, the Panthers ladies knew they would need to fire on all cylinders to take away the win from this game.
Kelsey Wolfe laid down a marker from the very start as she showed her array of skill with a drive to the hoop, two big three pointers and two free throws. The pace of the game was nothing short of frantic in the first quarter and Oblate were looking dangerous on the break with Teresa Harrison putting away two baskets inside.
Both sides then traded three pointers with Sinead Melia finding her range for the visitors while Katie Maloney hit back for Dynamos. Sinead Nihill came to life on the offensive end late in the quarter as she made space for herself to nail two baskets inside the key.
Oblate came back at Portlaoise again with two baskets from their own American J Maribito. Both teams went score for score to finish the quarter with Melia and Wolfe again putting the points on the board with Mc Kenna and Wonik keeping the margin to five points at the end of the quarter with the visitors leading 24-19.
This high quality, high intensity game continued into the second quarter as both sides continued to work hard at the defensive end although scores were coming thick and fast.
Time and again the shot clock was just beaten to the buzzer by late baskets from their opposing team. Wolfe was proving too hot too handle as she hit another four three pointers in this quarter to add to her impressive tally.
Her movement was only possible at times from the hard work of Tracey Fallon, Deirdre Tomlinson and Sinead Nihill setting powerful screens to free her up. Tomlinson was quick up the court on several occasions with Dynamos cynically fouling and putting her on the line for free throws with all four dispatched with ease.
With Oblates in foul trouble late in the quarter Portlaoise continued t punish them from the line with a further three free throws, two from Fallon and another from Tomlinson. This rounded off an excellent first half of National League basketball for the ladies as they led at the break on a scoreline of 48-41. They knew all too well that this game was far from over and that another half of hard ball lay ahead.
Pressure from the first inbound of the quarter saw Oblate take advantage by laying in the first score of the game by Farrell. Georgina Mc Kenna began to find her groove with three baskets from mid-range. The home crowd were getting behind their team and this added pressure to the Panthers ladies but they responded in the best possible manner by putting points on the board from Wolfe and Melia.
The visitors kept their heads in front with Tracey Fallon finding great position under the board and finishing strongly to the basket. With Panthers still missing two of their inside players, foul trouble was always going to be a major possibility. With Wolfe and Nihill leaving the game late in the third the pressure was on the guards to fight off a come back. Four points for Oblates at the end of the quarter kept the game in the balance heading into the final quarter, Portlaoise still ahead on a scoreline of 65-57.
The fourth quarter was all about holding your nerve and luckily it was the Panthers ladies who stayed calm and punished Dynamos from the line. With cool heads the visitors went nine from ten from the free throw line in the final ten minutes. With the game still in the balance this is no easy achievement and it set up the victory for the O’Loughlins Panthers team.
Wolfe, Nihill and Fallon were a constant threat all game under the boards which now adds a new dimension in offense for the coming year. With Maeve O’Sullivan in full control of proceedings throughout the game and with Catherine O’Sullivan on the comeback trail and finding her range late on, the game was in the hands of the Portlaoise women after an impressive display.
For all in attendance, they were treated to an exhibition of finishing from the newcomer to the league Kelsey Wolfe. For those who travelled from Portlaoise to see the game, they go home in the knowledge that they get to enjoy this talented player playing with the best the midlands has to offer over the next five months.
O’Loughlin’s Panthers finished the game victors on a scoreline of 85-63. This is a massive win away from home and now sets them up for a showdown at home next weekend against Tralee Imperials which takes place in St Marys Hall on Sunday at 2pm. Come down and get behind the team who aim for their second win in as many weeks.
O’Loughlins Panthers Team: Roisin O’Connell, Maeve O’Sullivan, Mary Callanan, Deirdre Tomlinson, Tracey Fallon, Sinead Melia, Sinead Nihill, Catherine O’Sullivan, Kelsey Wolfe. Coaches Peter O’Sullivan and Peter Duignan.