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 says his team will “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 - 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 FIBA Women’s 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 frustrated the Dutch. Just after the midpoint 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, as expected Dutch responded after the break, captain Natalie van den Adel landed a big three to reduce the defecit to 38-19. Ireland tried to extinguish any potential momentum, with Orla 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.
The Netherlands then went on a 20 point run, two Loyce Bettonvili’s three point jump shots completed it. 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 four minutes in made it 51-48.
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 cooly slotted jump shot with the 24 second shotclock running out. Again the Dutch brough the game level, but Bridget Herlihy landed two neverless three throws to re-establish Ireland’s lead.
The Netherlands came back once more, thanks to two Marlou de Kleijn free throws. More followed for the Dutch, Bettonvili’s free throw edged them 57-56 ahead with 17 seconds to go - the Dutch taking the lead for just the second time in the game. Ireland had chances at the death, but the result went the Dutch’s way, Noor Dreissen’s free throws in the last four seconds complted a 59-56 victory.
The defeat ended Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for FIBA Women’s EuroBasket, however head coach James 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).
FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers Result:
Sunday, November 27th
Ireland v Netherlands
FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers Fixture:
Thursday, Februrary 9th
Czech Republic v Ireland