Ireland were beaten 82-60 by the Netherlands in their opening FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2023 qualifier in Amsterdam, undone by a strong opening quarter from the home side.
Claire Melia top-scored for Ireland on 16 points, co-captain Edel Thornton also impressed with a 15 point haul, along with five assists and two steals, while Dayna Finn had nine points and seven rebounds.
The Dutch raced to an early 8-0 lead, before Thornton got Ireland off the mark two and a half minutes in, to trail 8-2.
Melia came up with a big three-pointer midway through the opening quarter to cut the deficit to 16-5. Melia had five points in the quarter. Ireland’s other co-captain, Grainne Dwyer, had the last say in the quarter with her two-point jump shot, as Ireland trailed 31-10.
Finn took a heavy fall early in the second quarter, which saw her take a break on the sidelines to ice her elbow area, but thankfully emerged later in the quarter showing no ill effects.
Ireland visibly grew in confidence, a layup from Edel Thornton with a little under four minutes gone in the second quarter saw James Weldon’s side trail by 16 points, 34-18.
Hannah Thornton converted one of her two free throws with two minutes to go, followed shortly afterwards by a jumper from Dwyer to make it 43-23.
Ireland again picked up the final score of the quarter, Anna Kelly’s three-point attempt was missed, but scooped up by Finn, who followed with a layup, however, the Netherlands led 46-25 at half-time.
Ireland out-scored their opponents 20-15 in a strong third quarter, with Melia and Edel Thornton to the fore, as their conversion rate at the basket improved. Ireland had a six-point scoring run started by Melia, The Address UCC Glanmire player with a three-point jump shot, the assist provided by Thornton. The roles were reversed moments later for another three and Ireland cut the Dutch advantage to 52-35 midway through the quarter.
Sorcha Tiernan’s layup made it 60-44 with less than two minutes to go. The scoring in the quarter was completed when Thornton converted one of her two free throws, to make it 61-45.
Ireland couldn’t bring the scores any closer in the final quarter, by the time Janis Boonstra had downed both of her free throws four minutes into the quarter, the home side led by 22 points, 70-48. Thornton picked up a couple of layups, to help reduce the deficit, but the Dutch closed it out to win 82-60.
Speaking afterwards head coach James Weldon said: “In fairness to Edel Thornton, she really got control of the game, and control of the tempo, I talked as well at half-time about just controlling the tempo. We got Claire (Melia) into the game better, into better positions, and she was really effective. So you know, the two of those girls really stepped up.
“There was some outstanding defensive plays, but I just think we’re kind of disappointed, we were looking at the first quarter and we were kind of like ‘wow’, but then we were disappointed that we weren’t closer, you know with five minutes to go it was a 15, 16 point game.”
You know, defensively put a lot of pressure on them, offensively you know they had three, four people in foul trouble, and we locked down the free throws a lot of the time.
"So, you know, we just need to tidy up - eight turnovers in the first half is not good enough at this level, and again we improved on that in the second half, we limited it to four.”
“But just overall you’ve got to be proud of it, after being out of the competition for so long. We talked about it all week, about having to learn to play at this level, you know we got plenty of lessons tonight, but we’ve got plenty of positives to take forward with us into Sunday.”
Ireland face the Czech Republic on Sunday in their next FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 tie, at 5pm at the National Basketball Arena, live on TG4.
Lisane de Jonge (0), Noor Driessen (5), Rowie Jongeling (3), Jacobine Klerx (0), Richelle van der Keijl (2), Janis Boonstra (9), Laura Cornelius (14), Marlou del Kleijn (9), Emese Hof (11), Karin Kuijt (6), Kourtney Treffers (18), Laura Westerik (5).
Michelle Clarke (2), Gráinne Dwyer (6) Dayna Finn (9), Maura Fitzpatrick (4), Rachel Huijsdens (0), Anna Kelly (0), Sarah Kenny (0), Claire Melia (16), Hannah Thornton (2), Edel Thornton (15), Sorcha Tiernan (5), Aine O’Connor (1).