Maeve Phelan was in top form for the Panthers against Waterford.
Portlaoise Panthers ladies Superleague team put in a sensational performance on Saturday night away to WIT Wildcats which put some breathing room between them and bottom placed NUIG Mystics.
Mystics had earlier beaten Brunell in Galway which put just one loss between both sides. A massive effort was required by Portlaoise Panthers to overturn their thirty point home loss to Wildcats before Christma,s and the ladies defied the odds to come away with the victory.
The game started at a slow pace with both sides trying to find their way in the game. Wildcats started in a zone defence which Portlaoise were not ready for, and it took a few offences for them to settle in.
Jasmine Walker got an early score for the home side while Sinead Melia got the ball rolling for Portlaoise with a lovely mid-range shot. Stephanie Poland got the next two scores inside the key as she went to work on getting one over her American compatriot Meagan Donoghue, whom she has come up against in college conference play over the years.
Donoghue had been a thorn in Portlaoise’s side in the reverse fixture and she quickly got her name on the scoresheet following a strong move down low. Having got into their stride in offence Portlaoise began to find the open player and Stephanie Schmid showed her accuracy from the three point line, dispatching three in a row to give Panthers a deserved lead midway through the quarter.
Stephanie O’Shea replied for Wildcats as she backed down her marker and finished strongly under the basket on three occasions to close the gap. But Portlaoise pushed on again and two free throws from Maeve Phelan and a basket each by Schmid and Sharon Melia gave Portlaoise a six point lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Portlaoise extend their lead further early on with Sharon Melia having a big impact off the bench, as she coolly slotted away two baskets and also found herself at the line on two occasions where she added further points to the Panthers lead. It was turning into a physical game for the inside players of both sides, which saw the coaches rotating their small squads so they could keep their players till the end of the game.
Having controlled the game for the visitors Maeve Phelan also added a massive three pointer to her tally as Wildcats looked to get back into the game. Stephanie Schmid and Sinead Melia were again getting the upper hand on their markers and weaved their way to the basket to add further scores.
A late burst by Wildcats saw them eat into the Panthers advantage with Helena Rohan adding six points on the break to drag Wildcats to within four points at the break on a scoreline of 34-38 in favour of Portlaoise.
With Portlaoise looking to break down the game quarter-by-quarter they were intent on making the third their second winning quarter of the game. But Waterford started as they had finished the first half putting pressure on the Panthers bigs, Stephanie O’Shea with another nine points and Jasmine Walker began to get into her stride with another eight points.
The lead changed hands throughout as Portlaoise continued to play great team basketball. Stephanie Poland continued to cause problems down low for the visitors and she hit Wildcats for seven points in succession. Her partnership with Tracey Fallon was creating problems and Fallon added a further basket to keep them right in the game. Scores were traded between the two number 15 with Schmid and Walker going up against each other. Wildcats took a slender one point lead heading into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter was all to play for and a tough ten minutes lay ahead for both teams. Amy Dooley and Stephanie Poland had a big task ahead of them trying to contain both O’Shea and Donoghue inside while trying to make an impact on the offensive end. Maeve Phelan was immense throughout the game on both ends and her calmness on the point was instrumental in how the Panthers offence was operating.
Having played two tough senior A school games earlier in the day Amy Dooley showed no signs of fatigue as she had the best quarter of basketball to date in a Panthers jersey as she rattled off ten points with her partner in crime Poland adding a further four points.
This propelled Portlaoise into a five point lead with under a minute to play with Portlaoise requiring five cool heads on the floor to see it out. A big three pointer late on by Jasmine Walker put just two points between the teams and with eight seconds on the clock Maeve Phelan went to the line making one from two to insure at least overtime from Wildcats last play.
But a big defensive stop at the other end gave Portlaoise a three point victory on a scoreline of 74-71, a brilliant team performance and win which saw them get their third win of the campaign.