Trinity Meteors’ near perfect season suffered a gutting blowing today following a shock 75-71 defeat at the hands of Portlaoise Panthers in the Basketball Ireland Division 1 National Cup final.
Nerves seemed to be a factor for both sides early on as sloppy play and missed shots abounded. The first few minutes were a low-scoring affair, but as the first quarter progressed Portlaoise seemed to use aggressiveness and physicality down low to settle into the game.
Exploiting their considerable height advantage, Portlaoise jumped to a quick lead, making baskets down low by utilising forward Trudy Walker’s power in the paint. Meteors will be left to rue the amount of second-shot opportunities they allowed – Portlaoise snatched 12 offensive rebounds in the first quarter alone.
Looking overwhelmed in the paint, it was impressive that Meteors were able to limit the deficit to just nine points as the first quarter came to an end.
On offense, Meteors were struggling to penetrate through the lane with Portlaoise’s intimidating zone defence preventing drives for the basket. It was difficult to navigate their relentless boxing out, with Trinity continually seeing their shots from close range block.
Meteors resorted to shooting from outside the D. However, perhaps due to nerves in the spotlight, the shots did not fall consistently for them. After a made three from Portlaoise’s Ciara Wheeler, Meteors found themselves down 12 points mid-way through the second quarter.
A comeback effort began for the Meteors in the third quarter. They finally settled down and returned to the style of play that has brought them so much success this season. They piled the pressure on the Portlaoise defence, forcing turnovers and pushing the ball up the court for easy transition baskets. In a momentum-building spell of play, Binder made two consecutive steals before converting them into layups to bring them within six points.
Sarah Kenny, after having struggled with her shot for most of the game, came through with a vital three to make the score 52 apiece. The crowd roared, with momentum on Trinity’s side heading into the fourth quarter. Just two points separated the sides.
The fourth quarter saw Portlaoise return to what had worked for them in the first. They continuously looked for Walker down low, who seemed to always find the ball on missed shots for put-back opportunities.
Portlaoise once again extended their lead after Wheeler made another three. Refusing to give in, Meteors fought back: two threes from Kenny and Binder respectively followed by a floater by Grigsby, before another made three from Kenny, pulled Meteors right back into the match. 69-69.
But Portlaoise prevailed, as Claire Melia secured points at the foul line to give them a two-point cushion. In the final thirty seconds with the chance to tie it, Meteors handed the ball to Grigsby who dribbled off a screen and came through with the close-range floater, but it torturously rattled the basket before hopping back into the court of play.
The Panthers retained possession and coolly slotted in free throws as the clock dwindled down. As the whistle sounded, the Panthers bench stormed the court in celebration while Meteors walked off looking dejected.
Although this result will be thoroughly disappointing for Vinnie O’Keefe’s side, Meteors will now turn their attention to the league, with everything still to play for.
Meteors: Lauren Grigsby, Rachel rice, Eimear Máirtín, Carolyn Binder, Katie Kilbride, Lauren Flynn, Katie Garton, Maebh Ryan, Sarah Kenny, Kate McDaid, Niamh Kenny, Jade Daly, Edel Thornton.
Panthers: Trudy Walker, Shauna Dooley, Ciara Wheeler, Lisa Blaney, Ciara Byrne, Deirdre Tomlinson, Shauna Burke, Gillian Wheeler, Jasmine Burke, Claire Melia, Grainne O’Reilly, Hannah Collins, Sarah Fleming.