Home Sport Basketball DCU Mercy 56 Portlaoise Panthers 51

DCU Mercy 56 Portlaoise Panthers 51

There was disappointment for the Portlaoise Panthers U-18 girls team on Saturday morning as they were beaten by DCU Mercy in the National Cup semi-final in Cork.

Having lost out at this stage last year to the eventual winners, Brunell, the Panthers were eager to not experience the same heartbreaking fate and make it one step further to the National Basketball Arena for the National Cup final at the end of January.

DCU started off the stronger of the two teams with an excellent finish from outside the arc by Power-Cassidy and a fine lay-up from Emily Black. Identifying that her team needed to settle, Claire Melia took the captain’s role by leading from the front, scoring well from both inside and outside the arc and adding the first seven points of her team’s tally.
Alice Dunne capitalised off a lovely feed from Claire Melia under the boards while Ailbhe Griffin pushed the ball on the break. Maeve Phelan was excellent on the defensive end keeping her designated player, Power- Cassidy, quiet.

Always a fast-breaking threat, Portlaoise did a great job tracking back on defense not allowing the DCU side to capitalise on rebounds or steals. Panthers took a four-point lead into the second quarter and with momentum on their side, were firm favourites at this point.

Both teams struggled to score in the second quarter with some excellent defence on display on both ends of the court. Panthers were finding themselves in trouble with the shot clock and were forced into less that ideal shots to beat the clock.

Claire Melia got her side out of jail from the three point line on two separate occasions and kept her team ticking over on the scoreboard. Sekinat Shabawale made a huge impact off the bench finishing well under pressure from the baseline and capitalising under the board from the extra pressure being placed on Claire Melia.

The Panthers increased their lead to eight points in this quarter but a late run from the DCU team, following some well executed pick and roll plays, meant the gap was reduced to one point at the break.

Having scored 22 points in the first half, DCU Mercy came out with a defensive plan to put a halt to Claire Melia, triple-teaming her on occasions. The Panthers, normally accurate from the three point line, failed to take advantage of the open players and came up short.

Some uncharacteristic turnovers were also punished by DCU in this quarter and they took the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game, a lead that they would not relinquish. Some excellent defence from Phelan, Fitzpatrick and Mc Auley resulted in some easy lay-ups for the Panthers side at the close of the quarter which reduced the deficit to four points.

DCU’s defence stepped up again in the final quarter as they maintained their aggression particularly on Melia. With their shots continuing to fall short, the Panthers depended on the fast break and penetration for their scores.

Maeve Phelan was effective on the offensive end as she showed grit and determination under the board, making it to the free throw line on two occasions. With the clock now against them, the Portlaoise girls needed stops which proved difficult.
Erone Fitzpatrick found her range from the outside and Portlaoise increased their pressure on defence getting their hands on numerous steals but it was too little too late as the DCU girls held on to possession, seeing out the game as five point victors.

With the Panthers hearts broken again, the girls will regroup and come back stronger with many of the team still underage for next year’s Cup competition.

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.