Ireland 56-59 Netherlands
Ireland fell to an agonising 59-56 defeat to the Netherlands, after leading for the majority of their FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers game at the National Basketball Arena on Sunday.
Head coach James Weldon said his team would "take a lot of positives" from the performance, ahead of their final qualifier against Czech Republic in February.
There were a number of standout performances including MVP Claire Melia, who finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds and three assists, while captain Edel Thornton contributed 10 points, three rebounds and two assists.
The Dutch opened with a couple of free throws, but it was Ireland who dominated the first half. Their opening half display was characterised by tenacious defence, matched with some excellent execution at the basket.
Their high tempo was rewarded with a 21-9 lead by the end of the first quarter. Bridget Herlihy’s layup on her EuroBasket debut edged Ireland 6-2 up with three and a half minutes gone.
Captain Thornton was dictating the play, her three-point jump shot with 2’46" to go in the quarter established a 16-7 lead and she’d finish with 10 points in the opening quarter alone.
The first five minutes of the second quarter was a low scoring affair, Ireland’s defence frustrating the Dutch.
Just after the mid-point of the quarter, Sorcha Tiernan brought the home crowd to their feet with a three-point jump shot, the assist coming from debutant Ciara Bracken, to make it 25-11.
Ireland continued to build a score, layups from Orla O’Reilly, Melia and a couple of Dayna Finn free throws established a 34-11 advantage.
Melia’s presence in the paint was causing major problems for the Dutch, she had eight points and seven rebounds by half-time.
Having had less than 20% field goal conversion rate in the opening half, the Dutch revived after the break, captain Natalie van den Adel landed a big three pointer to reduce the deficit to 38-19.
Ireland tried to extinguish any potential momentum, with O’Reilly’s three-point jump shot from out right, to help Ireland go 43-19 up with 7’42 to go in the quarter.
However, the visitors cut loose then, going on a 20-point run, decorated by two Loyce Bettonvili three point jump shots, narrowing the deficit to three points.
Sorcha Tiernan finally got Ireland back among the points, with a jump shot to make it 45-39. By the end of the quarter it was 46-42 to Ireland.
Bettonvili made it a one-point game with a minute a half gone in the fourth. The sides exchanged points, with Ireland still clinging on to a narrow lead, a buzzer beating hook shot from Melia made it 51-48 after four minutes in the final quarter.
A pair of Kourtney Treffers free throws brought the game level at 52-52 with 2’55 to go. 30 seconds later Melia put Ireland back in front, 54-52, thanks to another coolly slotted jump shot with the 24 second shot-clock running out.
Again, the Dutch brough the game level but Bridget Herlihy landed two nerveless free throws to re-establish Ireland’s lead.
However, it wasn't to be for the hosts, the Netherlands coming strong in the dying seconds. Two Marlou de Kleijn free throws levelled the contest. Bettonvili's subsequent basket from the free-throw line nudged them 57-56 ahead with just 17 seconds remaining. It was only the second time all game that the Dutch held the lead.
Ireland had a chance at the death but couldn't nail it, Noor Dreissen landing two free throws in the last four seconds to ensure a 59-56 win. Dayna Finn found no joy with a late buzzer beater attempt to rescue a draw for the home side.
The defeat ended Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2023, however head coach Weldon took plenty of positives afterwards. "We always knew they were going to come at some stage. Unfortunately, they got a lot of momentum and we were trying to hang in there and we did that.
"They just slightly pulled away at the end. This is a team that beat us by 22-points a year ago you know. We are a different team now and I still believe we are a different team following that performance.
"The girls will take a lot of positives from this and we will take a lot of learnings from this as a staff and try to get ready for the Czech Republic away in February."
Q1: 21-9, Q2: 13-5, Q3: 12-28, Q4: 10-17
Ciara Bracken (0), Michelle Clarke (0), Dayna Finn (7), Bridget Herlihy (7), Sarah Hickey (DNP), Rachel Huijsdens (0), Claire Melia (19), Áine O’Connor (0), Orla O’Reilly (7), Edel Thornton (10), Hannah Thornton (), Sorcha Tiernan (6).
Marlou de Kleijn (7), Loyce Bettonvil (15), Noor Driessen (), Karin Kuijt (3), Kiki Fleuren (), Ester Fokke (6), Natalie van den Adel (6), Julia Jorritsma (DNP), Janine Guijt (DNP), Kourtney Treffers (10), Laura Westerik (8), Lisanne de Jonge (0), Noor Driessen (4).