Our Lady’s Bower Athlone played host to the second round of games for the Panthers U-18 side last Saturday with the girls facing the home side in the first of their games. Following a close encounter from the tip off right through to the final whistle, the Portlaoise side emerged victorious.
The Panther girls took an early lead with Sarah Phelan and Sekinat Shabowale opening their personal accounts at the end of some well worked offences. The home side soon settled into the game and became accustomed to the Panther zone defence finding the space and hitting their field shots.
A three pointer at the end of the quarter from Gillian Hannigan kept the Panthers noses in front as they went in with a two point lead at the end of the first quarter.
The introduction of Aisling McCauley off the bench had a huge impact on the Portlaoise side as she added eight points in the second quarter to her teams tally.
Despite this excellent play, the Panther zone was tested time after time as Athlone put on a fine shooting display through Niamh Brady and Kathleen Flynn and the home team finished the half four points ahead.
The third quarter was another hard fought battle with each team having to grind out their scores. Portlaoise worked tirelessly in the zone defence to eradicate the outside threat from Athlone with Shauna Vandendries and Sarah Preston constantly pressurising the Athlone players.
Portlaoise reaped the rewards of this great defence through scores from Orla O’Donovan and Aisling McCauley on the fast break. The Athlone lead had been cut to just one point at the end of the third quarter.
A superb three pointer from Sarah Phelan at the beginning of the final quarter gave her team a lead that they would not relinquish for the rest of the game. However, It was the intensity on defence from the Panther girls throughout this quarter that won the game keeping Athlone to four points for the quarter as Jennifer O’Neill hassled the Athlone guards forcing them into taking contested shots.
Ellen Healy pulled down a fantastic rebound which saw Shauna Vandendries finish on the fast break and the Panther girls appeared to be home and dry.
However a foul in the last two seconds of the game presented Athlone with the opportunity to put the game into extra time. Two missed free throws and an excellent rebound from Orla O’Donovan saw the clock run down and secured a well deserved two point victory for the Panther girls.
Portlaoise Panthers Team: Sarah Preston, Sarah Phelan, Gillian Hannigan, Shauna Vandendries, Orla O’Donovan, Aisling Mc Cauley, Jennifer O’Neill, Sekinat Shabowale, Ellen Healy.