Portlaoise travelled to Kilkenny on Saturday night to defend their Midland Cup title against Kilkenny champions Berkeley.
This was the third time for the teams to meet this season with Portlaoise coming out the victor on the two previous occasions but Portlaoise knew from those encounters about the quality of this Kilkenny team and that they would have a big challenge on their hands.
Portlaoise began the game with full court pressure and hoped for some quick turnovers that could be converted into scores.
However the first quarter was a very close affair with both teams trading scores for the opening 10 minutes. Deirdre Tomlinson and Sinead Melia worked tirelessly in offence continually driving to the board and racked up 13 superb points between them.
Aine Sheehy for Berkeley counter balanced this with some fine outside shooting but the Midlander’s led by four points after the first quarter.
Portlaoise continued to dig deep in the second quarter. The O’Sullivan sisters demonstrated great shooting from inside and outside the arc while Sharon Melia and Grainne Tomlinson cleaned up defensive rebounds and although ahead for all the quarter Portlaoise could not stretch their lead by more than five points.
With two minutes until the half time whistle the girls worked hard in the fast break allowing Sinead Melia to add to her teams score and allowed the Portlaoise girls to lead at the half on a scoreline of 29 points to 20.
The third quarter was the most difficult quarter for the Portlaoise girls. Frustration on the court and some hard refereeing decisions coming against them caused the girls to lose concentration and allow Berkeley back into the game.
However the experienced Jackie Costelloe worked solidly under her boards creating chance after chance for her team and with the final ten minutes to play Portlaoise lead by seven, 34 points to 41 points.
Knowing they were just one step away from making the cup final Portlaoise set to maintain the pressure on their opponents. Maeve O’Sullivan added super scores to her teams tally and Deirdre Tomlinson continued to bombard Berkeley’s defence adding score after score for her team.
As the quarter drew to a close and with a huge three by Catherine O Sullivan, Portlaoise held firm and won the game by a final scoreline of 40 points to 59.
Portlaoise Panthers Team: Catherine O’Sullivan, Maeve O Sullivan, Deirdre Tomlinson, Grainne Tomlinson, Jackie Costelloe, Sharon Melia and Sinead Melia. Coach: Jack Scully.
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