Fr Mathew’s 80 Portlaoise Panthers 66
FR Mathew’s got back to winning ways in the Men’s Division 1 league when they defeated Portlaoise Panthers at the Fr Mathew’s Arena on Saturday.
Since the start of the season, the policy of the Mathew’s player-coach Darko Bucan has been to blood some of the younger players in the club and on this occasion U18 star Sean McManus was given a place in the starting five.
After watching his team eventually wear down the brave Portlaoise Panthers side coach Bucan praised his players in the manner they closed out the game in the second half.
“This has been a learning curve for many players this season and I think as a team we have made a lot of progress and hopefully the younger guys will see the value of it next season,” said Darko Bucan.
The Mathew’s boss has seen his side in the top three all season and after reaching the cup semi-final many pundits are predicting a bright future for the core of their squad.
“Baby steps as when you look at Ballincollig they were well ahead of any other sides in the division and when our campaign ends I am sure we will reflect on what we can take from the season,” added Bucan.
It has been a tough season for Portlaoise Panthers but coach Niall Berry believes his club are serious about bringing players through their underage programme.
“It’s a tough league but we have enjoyed the season and all we can do is hope our patience is rewarded in the coming years,” said Niall Berry.
Both sides went for the jugular from tip-off but with David Murray and American Jervis Pugh excelling Mathew’s got a good start despite trailing 24-21 entering the second quarter.
James Phelan looked impressive in the offence court for the Panthers but Mathew’s ended the first half in style with Connolly finishing with a neat jumper that gave the home side a 43-38 interval lead.
Mathew’s sealed the game in second half as they got 12-point run and with Murray and Pugh executing key baskets that ensured there was no way back for the Panthers.
The key for Mathew's now is to finish the season on the most positive note they can and look to add a couple of experienced players to the mix for the campaign in '20-21, with Ballincollig and possibly Killarney moving up to the Super League.
Top scorers for Fr Mathew’s: J Pugh 28, O Connolly 13, D Murray 11, D Cahill 11.
Portlaoise Panthers: J Phelan 25, K Dunne 15, K Burke 10.
Fr MATHEW'S: J Pugh, D Brazas, D Bucan, O Connolly, D O’Herlihy, L O’Mahony, D Murray, D Cahill, A O’Donovan, J O’Mahony.
PANTERS: K Burke, G Morrissey, M Vilimas, T Swayne, J Phelan, L Kinsella, S Condon, D Dunne, C Byrne, R O’Connell, S Kenny, S Ryan.
Referees: Peter James Coughlan (Cork), Eddie Cooke (Cork).