Panthers claw back to crush Lakers’ hopes

Emilian Grudov: Top scored for Lakers on 22

Scott’s Lakers 71
Portlaoise Panthers 77

Report: Enda Walshe

WHEN Emilian Grudov sank a three-pointer midway through the third quarter, to leave the minimum between the sides, it looked as if the momentum was firmly with Scott’s Lakers as they clawed their way back from a 15-point deficit earlier in the same quarter.

This was due in no small part to both Grudov and Ben Miller as they had inspired their side on a 16-2 run and revenge for the national cup defeat by Portlaoise Panthers at Halloween looked on.

But for the remainder of third quarter and in the early minutes of the fourth, Panthers themselves went on a scoring spree to open up a 13-point lead once again, 67 to 54.

New Lakers’ signing Godwin Boahen, a division 1 college graduate from the University of Illinois, then showed his mettle, not least in helping the Lakers mount yet another comeback in the final quarter and bringing the gap down to a more manageable three, 70-67.

Lakers had three bites of the cherry to draw even closer but, unfortunately, they failed and so it was left to Australian Nelson Larkins, who was outstanding all night for the hosts, to have the final say as the Panthers ran out 77 to 71 winners.

When the visitors were heading south from St Mary’s Hall in Portlaoise, they did so with a little tinge of regret as this was a game they could well have won.

Ben Miller in form for Lakers with 15points

The hosts will be grateful to man-mountain Conor Gallagher. Standing at 6’10”, he delivered off the bench when the need was greatest, most especially in the first half where his points tally was the difference between the sides.

It must also be said that the Killarney cause was hindered by the early foul trouble Rui Saravia found himself in. Scott’s Lakers handed a first national league start to David Gleeson and his defence and rebounding ability was a big addition to the roster.

After a slow start, trailing 7-0, strong play from Grudov and baskets from Saravia, Miller and Jamie O’Sullivan kept the Lakers in touch at the end of the first quarter, after which they were 21-16 behind.

Godwin Boahen, sharing court time with Miller, wasted no time introducing himself to the Irish league when reeling off eight points in the second quarter and with Jamie O’Sullivan on nine points, they just kept Portlaoise in their sights at the interval, 35-47.

The Panthers hit an early three but this coincided with the Lakers’ 16-2 scoring run and they stayed in the Panthers slipstream from there on.

Boahen and Grudov kept the scoreboard ticking over, along with the impressive Jamie O’Sullivan, but they couldn’t get their noses in front.

Again, there were positives to take out of the encounter. The concession of just 30 points in the second half was down to fighting hard defence. When the offence clicked, scoring was made look easier and the battling qualities of the young players, Senan O’Leary and Lorcan Keane had to be admired.

Coach Jarlath Lee: Bemoaned the slow start

If this level of defence can be maintained and the ongoing improvement on shot selection continues, the upcoming home league games against the Limerick sides, Celtics and Sports Eagles, may well bear fruit.

Top scorers for the Lakers were Emilian Grudov 22, Godwin Boahen 16, Ben Miller 15, Jamie O’Sullivan 12, Senan O’Leary 2, Paul Clarke 2, Rui Saravia 2.

For the Panthers Nelson Larkins top scored with 20, Conor Gallagher mined 18 points and Liam Kinsella hit 13.

Coach Jarlath Lee bemoaned the slow start: “We settled down and made some really good decisions at times but we allowed them get ahead of us again though we kept battling away,” he said.

“We left them away from us in the opening minutes of the last quarter but credit again to the lads they kept plugging away”.

The Lakers are at home in their next two outings. On December 11 the Limerick Sports Eagles will be the visitors to the Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre with a 7.30pm tip-off. The following Saturday, December 18, the Celtics will make the trip down from the Treaty County, again with a 7.30pm tip-off.