Loftus Recycling 103
Subway Portlaoise 70
While the margin at the end was 33 points, the final score in this National League (Division 1 ) game, in Ballina Sport and Leisure Centre, did not do justice to a spirited performance by Subway Portlaoise. The midlands side gave as good s they got for a good part of this match which saw Loftus Recycling pick up two more league points which should assure them a place in the league play-offs at the end of next month.
With Paul Barrett unavailable, due to injury, and Liam McHale sitting out the first half, Loftus Recycling started with Peter Papic, Willie Popplewell, Colm Leonard, Deora Marsh, and Colin O’Malley. In the final four minutes of the game, only Popplewell remained on the court accompanied by his brother Stephen, Lamar Marsh, Taofik Mustapha, and Gavin Roche. In the intervening period, however, the old maestro, MacHale, had taken to the court and a huge performance by him in the third quarter had turned the game for Ballina. Mustapha also made a major contribution in the third and fourth quarters.
The first quarter was a very close affair with the first basket taken by David Glynn for Portlaoise. Popplewell soon levelled it for the home side and went on to hit another seven points in this period. While Ballina led by six towards the end of the quarter, big three pointers by Peter O’Sullivan and Shane O’Neill saw the visitors narrow the gap to just two at the break despite Mark Cunningham also hitting a big three for Loftus Recycling at the end of period.
The second period opened with David Glynn scoring a huge three-pointer, from almost mid court, for Portlaoise to put them into a one-point lead. The lead changed hands a number of times during this quarter with some slack defence by Ballina and good outside shooting by Portlaoise keeping them well in the game at half time with Ballina leading by just a single point (42:41 ). For part of this period, the great Deora Marsh was accompanied in the home side by his son Lamar, a Leaving Cert student and one of Ballina’s many up and coming young players.
At the start of the third quarter, Ballina coach Oisin Ginty introduced veteran Liam MacHale and his presence on the court had an immediate effect. As well as directing operations generally for his side, Mac Hale shored up the defence and combined particularly well with youngster Toafik Mustapha, who had also been introduced for Ballina. Even though he only came on the court after half-time, Mustapha finished as the game with 18 points as did Willie Popplewell and Peter Papic who had an excellent game throughout for Loftus Recycling. Portlaoise could only manage 10 points in the third period compared with a tally of 29 for Ballina which left the score at 71:52 at the three-quarter stage.
The final period saw Loftus Recycling rapidly extend their lead with Mustapha hitting 10 points and MacHale chipping in with two 3-pointers having already landed one in the third quarter. Despite their best efforts, Portloise had no answer to Ballina’s guile and experience and, even after MacHale and March were withdrawn with about four minutes remaining, there was no way back for the visitors and a very young Ballina side finished the game with a comfortable win
Loftus Recycling:, Taofik Mustapha 1(8 ), Liam McHale (11 ), Deora Marsh (16 ), Willie Popplewell (18 ), Stephen Popplewell (4 ), Peter Papic (18 ), Colm Leonard (9 ), Lamar Marsh, Gavin Roche, Colin O’Malley (2 ).
Subway Portlaoise: David Glynn (4 ), Morgan O’Sullivan (16 ), Jack Scully (6 ), Shane O’Neill (3 ), Shane Bracken, Peter O Sullivan (3 ), Kevin Donoghue (4 ), Padraig Morrissey (9 ), Pierce Fagan (17 ).