Maeve Phelan was in top form for Portlaoise Panthers.
Portlaoise Panthers Ladies travelled to the Barrow Centre in Carlow on Sunday evening to take on Midland rivals IT Carlow in their first ever meeting in the Superleague.
Portlaoise were still searching for their first win of the season and a big performance was required to overcome Carlow and take bragging rights for the time being. A twenty point victory was well-deserved as they put an all-round team performance together to take themselves off the bottom of the table and level on points with IT Carlow.
Both sides have struggled of late due to major injuries to key players and have looked to other players to step up to the mark. Maeve Phelan returned from injury to lead Portlaoise from the point position, and the seventeen year old played well beyond her years as she controlled the pace of the game for the full forty minutes.
A lively start to the game saw both sides trade three pointers with Stephanie Schmid hitting the first of her five threes on her first attempt. Aoife Whelan replied for Carlow from a long way out and set the tone for the game as both sides produced from range throughout.
Fellow American Stephanie Poland was using her size inside and rattled off the next five points with a fine score under the basket followed by three from four at the line. Tracey Fallon was immense on the defensive end as she contained the threat caused by Carlow’s American Maeve Parahus who has been averaging over twenty points a game up to now.
Further scores from Schmid and a first from Sinead Melia gave Portlaoise a 19-11 lead heading into the second quarter.
The game really came to light in the second as both offences seemed pretty much unstoppable in this end to end period. Tough defence by Portlaoise meant that they played on the edge and early fouls were punished at the line with Carlow starting to close the gap.
A thirteen point quarter by Schmid gave Portlaoise some breathing space but again the home side weren’t about to lie down without a fight. Three big three pointers in quick succession coming from Sarah Kenny and Megan Dunne dropped the lead to below ten points coming near the end of the half but shots from Sinead Nihill and Stephanie Poland from mid-range pushed the lead out to eleven points heading in at the break after an entertaining half of basketball.
The third quarter was the winning of the game for Portlaoise as they continued to pressure hard in a full court press which limited Carlow to some tough plays. Poland continued to lead from inside and Schmid was proving unstoppable from the three point line.
Maeve Phelan got rewarded for her brilliant play with two offensive rebounds and put-back baskets. The impressive Amy Dooley came to life in the third as she linked up well with both Phelan and Poland to rattle off eight points inside the key to extend her side’s lead.
Holli Dunne kept the scoreboard ticking over for the home side as she penetrated twice in a row to the basket and finished well on the left. Portlaoise were well on top at the end of the third leading by twenty points going into the last.
Schmid and Phelan continued where they left off at the start of the quarter as Schmid brought her personal tally to thirty four points for the game. Parahus hit four from four at the line at the start of the quarter and eventually got her first score from live play nearing the end of the game which showed the marking job by Fallon, Melia and Phelan at different stages throughout the game.
Sharon Melia hit a lovely shot with Deirdre Tomlinson hitting one from two to finish off the scoring and leaving Portlaoise Panthers with a deserved twenty point win which will hopefully give them a much needed boost from here on.
They face off against the mighty DCU next Saturday in St Marys Sportshall at 6pm.