Portlaoise Panthers 52 DCU Mercy 62
Hula Hoops U-20 Women’s Cup Final
A Rachel Huijsdens inspired DCU Mercy claimed back-to-back National U-20 Women’s Cup titles in Tallaght against Portlaoise Panthers this afternoon.
The Panthers were the better side in the first half and led for most of it before Huijsdens began to exert her dominance on proceedings towards the end of it.
The Panther’s scoring rate slowed down in the second half and that cost them dearly as DCU pulled away to win.
Jack Dooley’s Panthers side defeated Liffey Celtics in the semi final two weeks ago to reach the decider and that in itself was a truly remarkable feat given the age profile of the squad.
Just two of the panel are up to the age of U-20 which means that the Panthers will be well placed to have another crack at this competition again next year.
The Panthers made a simply brilliant start as the enigmatic Claire Melia got her first basket before Gillian Wheeler executed a three-pointer from the angle.
DCU Mercy responded but futher baskets from Wheeler, Melia and Sarah Fleming left Portlaoise ahead by 11 to 8 at the end of the first quarter.
The Panthers extended that lead on the resumption of play thanks to another delightful three pointer, this time from Sarah Fleming, along with baskets from Claire Melia.
However, DCU Mercy went into this game as favourites as they were defending champions for nothing and they came roaring back to take the lead for the first time with two minutes of the half to play.
Rachel Huijsdens, Nicole Clancy and Bronagh Power-Cassidy were all causing Portlaoise Panthers problems and their ability to score helped DCU into a 21-20 lead.
Claire Melia, Ciara Byrne and Lisa Blaney all hit back for Panthers but a late Rachel Huijsdens basket sent DCU in at the half time break with a 27-25 lead.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, it was in the third quarter where the game got a little bit away from them.
They began it well with a three-pointer from Shauna Dooley and a basket from Gillian Wheeler but their shooting let them down in the remainder as the solitary Claire Melia basket was all they could manager.
Rachel Huijsdens continued to torment Portlaoise and she helped DCU into a 37 to 32 lead as we headed for the final quarter.
The Panthers needed a big final quarter and they made a good start to it with two Gillian Wheeler free throws. However, DCU continued to outscore them and with five minutes to play, they led 45-34.
Coach Jack Dooley changed tactics to a full court press for the remainder of the game and that did yield extra baskets for the Panthers who closed the gap to eight at one stage.
But DCU Mercy kept scoring down the other end and they ran out ten point winners in the end to reclaim the cup.
SCORERS – Claire Melia 17, Gillian Wheeler 9, Sarah Fleming 9, Lisa Blaney 2, Ciara Byrne 3, Shauna Dooley 6, Jasmine Burke 2
PANEL: Shauna Dooley, Jade Burke, Shauna Mulhall, Ciara Byrne, Amy Byrne, Gillian Wheeler, Jasmine Burke, Hannah Collins, Claire Melia, Lisa Blaney, Caoimhe Foynes, Sarah Fleming