Ireland’s senior women’s team lost 70-54 to the Czech Republic at the National Basketball Arena, in their second FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers game. Claire Melia again impressed with 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists, while Sorcha Tiernan came off the bench to top score with 12 points, from four three-pointers.
Melia got Ireland off the mark with a layup in the 2nd minute to lead 2-0. The Czech’s established a 5-2 lead, before a big three from Maura Fitzpatrick brought it back level at 5 apiece.
The Czechs stared to build a score and Petra Holesinska was to the fore, with eight points in the opening quarter and they led 23-10 by the end of it.
A big three from Eliska Hamsova with two and a half minutes gone in the second quarter, stretched the Czech’s lead to 27-11. But Ireland didn’t let up, a three point jump shot from Sorcha Tiernan with two minutes to go reduced the deficit to 33-21.
Sorcha Tiernan top scored for Ireland with 12 points in the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers game with Czech Republic.
30 seconds later Maura Fitzpatrick had to be helped off the court after colliding with Veronika Vorackova, jarring her knee in the process. It was a big loss, the Connecticut-born player had picked up eight points by that stage. She didn’t reappear in the second half and the Gloucester City Queens player was heading for an MRI scan on the injury after the game.
Maura Fitzpatrick in action from Ireland against Czech Republic in FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers
A Julia Reisingerova hook shot on the buzzer to make it 37-21 at half-time.
Ireland came out after the break looking to make inroads and a pair of threes from Tiernan within the space of 30 seconds saw Czech Republic’s lead reduced to 13 points, 46-33, at the midway point in the third quarter. A brilliant block in the final seconds by Michelle Clarke when a breakaway layup was on the cards saw the score remain 54-38 going into the final quarter.
An Edel Thornton 3-point jump shot with a little over two minutes gone in the fourth quarter saw Ireland trail 55-41. The sides then exchanged threes, Czech Republic captain Petra Zaplatova’s score cancelled out by Tiernan straight away and it was 58-44 with seven minutes remaining. It brought Tiernan’s total on the night up to 12.
But Ireland failed to reduce the deficit further, Veronika Vorackova’s layup with three and a half minutes to go had the Czech’s leading by 23 points, 69-46.
Mimi Clarke’s three point jump shot was the highlight from the closing minutes. Ireland were defeated 70-54, but plenty of positives from a determined performance.
Speaking afterwards co-captain Gráinne Dwyer believes there are a lot of encouraging things to take away from the performance. “Yeah absolutely loads of positives there. A 16 point deficit to a team ranked, what are they, 22 in Europe. I can’t fault us, we worked really hard. Look, small things we could have done better to make that game like, to shorten the gap, but look at the end of the day we kept fighting ‘til the end. The 16 points unfortunately came from the end of the first quarter, (and) end of the second quarter and that was the finishing score, it was the same in the Netherlands. These are learning things we should have taken from Thursday, brought into today, but again we played a lot more team basketball. We did things a lot better, that we had tuned into from Thursday to tonight. So really, really positive to be honest and I think with a training camp during the summer and a few more competitive games we’ll be looking forward to this time next year.”
Ireland head coach James Weldon also reflected on the team’s performance: “I suppose, little bit disappointed, it could have been a bit closer. I thought we played great basketball at times, and then at times we had some terrible turnovers in the first half. I thought we tidied that up a good bit in the second half. Again, struggled a little bit to get into our offence and our shot selection wasn’t great at times, but Czech Republic are a really good basketball team, they were in EuroBasket last year, and we were hanging with them.”
“We said we wanted a better start and we got that better start. So look I’m very proud of the girls. Maura (Fitzpatrick) obviously going out, she was starting to get hot, I thought she was going to have a big game, I really believe she was on for a big game, but again like different players dialed up. Áine (O’Connor) came in and did a serious job on Julia Reisingerova for us, and different players stepped up. Anna Kelly was much better tonight, Edel (Thornton) was really solid again, and obviously Sorcha (Tiernan) gave us a huge lift off the bench, and Claire (Melia) came back into it, you know, they did a very good job defensively on her in the first half, but it’s very hard to stop Claire Melia.”
Scores (Ireland v Czech Republic):
Q1: 10-23 (10-23)
Q2: 21-37 (11-14)
Q3: 38-54 (17-17)
Q4: 54-70 (16-16)
Top 5 scorers:
Ireland – Sorcha Tiernan (12), Claire Melia (10), Maura Fitzpatrick (8) Edel Thornton 4(), Dayna Finn (4), Gráinne Dwyer (4)
Czech Republic - Julia Reisingerova (12), Veronika Vorackova (11), Petra Holesinska (9), Veronika Sipova (8), Natalie Stoupalova (8)
Ireland - Michelle Clarke (3), Gráinne Dwyer (4) Dayna Finn (4), Maura Fitzpatrick (8), Rachel Huijsdens (0), Anna Kelly (7), Sarah Kenny (DNP), Claire Melia (10), Hannah Thornton (2), Edel Thornton (4), Sorcha Tiernan (12) , Aine O’Connor (0).
Czech Republic - Kristyna Brabencova (3), Katerina Galickova (3), Eliska Hamzova (4), Petra Holesinska (9), Michaela Krejzova (0), Petra Malikova (0), Julie Pospisilova (7), Julia Reisingerova (12), Veronika Sipova (8), Natalie Stoupalova (8), Veronika Vorackova (11), Petra Zaplatova (5).