Senior Women's National Cup Final
Portlaoise Panthers 56
Tralee Imperials 49
THERE was heartbreak yet again for Tralee Imperials in the Cup Final as they lost out for the third year in succession.
This, of course, was a battle between two teams who were very familiar with each other.
This was the third matchup between these two clubs this season. They split the season series which undoubtedly caused a lot of excitement leading up to the event. These teams lived up to the hype; it was a close as anyone could've asked for, with the Panthers pulling out a seven point victory due to good free throw shooting and defence down the stretch.
The MVP from the Portlaoise Panthers was Sinead Melia who finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Most importantly, she went 4-4 from the free throw line with under a minute to go and sealed the victory for her team.
It was a defensive battle in a tight first quarter between the Panthers and the Imperials. The Imperials led 13-8 after one. The Imperials managed 5 steals in the first while the Panthers grabbed three. Tralee had five players attribute to their 13 first quarter points. They moved the ball well and controlled the clock which was a large reason to their lead at the break.
The Panthers came out fighting in the second quarter and quickly took back the lead with the help of their efficient shooting from the field. They went on a 10-0 run to take a four point lead, due in large part to Maeve O'Sullivan, with 4:38 left in the second.
The Imperials started forcing the Panthers into turnovers allowing them to regain the lead. The score at the half-time break was all even at 25. The Imperials came out of the half with aggression as they started the half on a 7-0 run, due in large part to their effort on both ends of the floor and Sinead Mackessy.
Portlaoise quickly went on an 8-0 run of their own with a few three pointers by Catherine O'Sullivan. It was a battle for the rest of the third quarter with five lead changes and the Panthers went into the fourth quarter with a one point lead and a fired up crowd.
In a tightly contested fourth quarter battle, the Panthers took an eight point lead with 3:09 left to play in the game. It was an exciting fourth quarter as fans from both sides were on their feet making noise.
Maeve O'Sullivan made two free throws with a minute left to make it a ten point contest, but aggressive defence and sharp shooting, the Panthers quickly pulled it to a five point contest with 44 seconds to go.
Great free throw shooting down the stretch by Sinead Melia kept the Imperials from having a chance to come back. She sealed it at the line with 10 seconds to go giving the Panthers a seven point lead which they held on to for a 56-49 victory.
Portlaoise Panthers: M O'Sullivan 12, S Melia 11, T Fallon 10)
Tralee Imperials: S Mackessy 20, L Jones 9, C Buckley 8
MVP: Sinead Melia (Portlaoise Panthers)