Promotion to the Super League is now well within the grasp of Trinity Meteors, having advanced to the finals of the Women’s Division 1 promotion playoffs this afternoon, defeating the Portlaoise Panthers by a score of 80-63.
The finals will be held tomorrow in Leixlip, where they will battle it out against Team Tom McCarthys St Marys who defeated Ulster University in the other semi-final today.
With the memory of a painful cup defeat to Portlaoise last month still fresh in their minds, Meteors entered the match with revenge in mind.
Yet after having comfortably come out the victors in the rematch last Saturday, the Meteors were also confident coming into this one, against a Panthers side which was missing Claire Melia – one of their key players from the Cup final.
The match started off competitively with the Panthers taking an early lead. Trudy Walker for the Panthers was causing trouble for the Meteors, using her strength from within the key to score points.
But Meteors did well to adjust, refusing to allow their lack of physicality cost them as it did in the cup. By applying a full court press and intense defense, Meteors forced a number of bad shots. Thornton was a pest for Portlaoise all game long, consistently swiping steals that led to transition baskets.
With reliable outside shooting from Sarah Kenny and Thornton’s dynamic dribbling creating space for scores, Meteors pulled ahead. They went nine points clear in the first quarter, but a couple of baskets in a row by the Panthers just before the end of the quarter kept things close.
The second quarter was a back and forth affair – a three by Ciara Byrne gave the Panthers the lead forcing Meteors’ Coach Vinnie O’Keefe to call a timeout. A slew of missed shots for Trinity was a cause for concern, but the Panthers were unable to capitalise – two points remained between the sides.
Mid-way the second, Eimear Máirtín injected a burst of life into the tie with a fake pump and subsequent drive through the lane for the score. Following that, Thornton displayed a highlight-worthy crossover to shake away her defender before pushing through to the basket for another two points. Despite growing momentum, Meteors were unable to pull away, the score line reading 36-34 at the halftime buzzer.
It was in the third quarter where the Meteors found their mojo. The turning point came when Kenny caught fire to make three three pointers in a row. After, Thornton intercepted a pass before hurling it up to Lauren Grisby for the easy put in, and Meteors found themselves up by 13.
Up 10 points, Trinity kept their foot on the peddle in the fourth quarter. Their hot shooting continued with threes from both Grigsby and Kenny early on. Meteors captain Kate McDaid contributed with a close range bank shot and a pair of free throws to extend their lead.
Meanwhile, the Panthers looked lost as they could only heave up shots in desperation, unable to create clear-cut opportunities against the Meteors’ smothering defense.
The buzzer sounded for the end of the match with the final score 80-63, signalling the Meteors’ advancement to the finals of the promotion playoff and an opportunity, with one win, to compete in the top tier of club basketball in Ireland next season. Victory tomorrow will surprise nobody.