Hula Hoops Women’s Division One National Cup final
Portlaoise Panthers 75
Trinity Meteors 71
PORTLAOISE Panthers rounded off a monumental weekend for their club as they claimed their second National Cup title in just three days on Sunday afternoon when they stormed home to a 75-71 point win over Trinity Meteors in the Hula Hoops Women’s Division One National Cup final. The Division One trophy headed down the M7 where it will join the U/18 trophy that Panthers won on Friday evening.
The return of Claire Melia at Christmas added an extra element to Portlaoise and it was the inside combination of Melia and MVP Trudy Walker that helped Portlaoise dominate the inside as they out-rebounded Meteors by an incredible 41 rebounds.
Despite being dominated so dramatically on the boards, Trinity managed to stay in the game to the very end by forcing Portlaoise to turn over the ball consistently through the excellence of Lauren Grigsby in particular. It wasn’t to be Meteors day though and Portlaoise were deserving winners.
Speaking afterwards, head coach Peter O’Sullivan said: “That was a brilliant performance, a brilliant day and a brilliant weekend. The U/18s make up so much of our senior team and it’s great to have the experience of Deirdre Tomlinson, Claire Melia and Trudy Walker to add in. It’s a massive achievement for the club – two National Cups in one weekend and it’s been building and we are just delighted to get the two wins.
“We tried to keep calm as we have a lot of young players and this big occasion, it has been tough. We knew they were going to throw everything at us going in at half time, but they shots the lights out. It was cool calm and collected inside with both Trudy and Claire down the stretch. It’s been a brilliant club experience, from the crowds that have been here too.”
The first quarter began with a bang as Ciara Wheeler and Lauren Grigsby traded early scores. Portlaoise didn’t take long to start to exert some early dominance as they started to have success on the inside through Trudy Walker. As the quarter progressed Walker and Grigsby continued to score for their teams. Portlaoise were playing some excellent defence and had opened a nine-point lead as Melia and Walker found ways to score around the basket. Meteors finished the quarter strongly as a Grigsby three pointer left them trailing 24-15.
The second quarter followed a similar path as Portlaoise’s inside duo of Melia and Walker were causing huge issues for Meteors. A first half rebounding advantage of 35-16 highlighted the advantage as Melia gathered 14 rebounds to go along with the 10 Walker collected. The dominance on the boards was also telling on the scoreboard as seven different Panthers players scored in the first half with Walker leading the way on 15. At half time Portlaoise had extended their lead to 40-28.
As the second half got started, Meteors roared into the game with Grigsby continuing her dominant performance with ten early points. But Portlaoise were still answering from the three-point line with Wheeler impressing. Ciara Byrne came up with a big mid-range jump shot for Portlaoise but Thornton answered with a beautiful drive to the basket.
Sarah Kenny, who had been quiet offensively, then stepped up with a huge three pointer to draw the teams level with 2.30 to go in the third. Panthers were looking for answers and again Byrne was there to deliver as she gave Portlaoise a two-point lead.
With a minute to go in the quarter Grigsby forced a turnover and found Thornton for another tying score. Both teams traded free throws in the final minute, but it was Portlaoise who came out of the action with a slender two-point lead 58-56.
Trudy Walker continued her impressive display as she scored six of Portlaoise’s first eight points as they opened up a lead. Grigsby was still scoring well but Meteors were forced to call a timeout trailing.
A big Ciara Wheeler three extended the Portlaoise lead to ten but Sarah Kenny was on hand with a long-range reply to narrow the lead back to seven with five minutes left to play. The Trinity duo of Binder and Grigsby again delivered, and the lead was back to just three as Portlaoise continued to turn the ball over.
With two minutes to go Sarah Kenny again stepped up and a huge three drew the teams level on 69 points apiece. Portlaoise responded by going inside to Claire Melia who got to the free throw line and gave her team back a two-point lead.
Meteors had good looks at the basket but couldn’t score and it was up to Irish international star Claire Melia to close the game out on the free throw line as Portlaoise won out 75-71.
PORTLAOISE PANTHERS: Trudy Walker (24), Shauna Dooley, Ciara Wheeler (15), Lisa Blaney (2), Ciara Byrne (7), Deirdre Tomlinson (2), Shauna Burke, Gillian Wheeler (13), Jasmine Burke (2), Claire Melia (10) , Grainne O’Reilly, Hannah Collins, Sarah Fleming
TRINITY METEORS: Lauren Grigsby (29), Rachel Rice, Eimear Mairtin, Carolyn Binder (11), Katie Kilbride (1), Lauren Flynn, Katie Garton, Maebh Ryan, Sarah Kenny(12) , Kate McDaid (2), Niamh Kenny, Jade Daly (2), Edel Thornton (14)
MVP: Trudy Walker (Portlaoise Panthers)