Waterford Wildcats 67
Portlaoise Panthers 51
Waterford Wildcats turned in a hugely impressive performance at the National Basketball Arena on Sunday when they won the U20 Women’s National Cup following a 16-points win over Portlaoise Panthers in the final.
The Hickey sisters, Kate and Sarah, dominated proceedings while Sarah claimed the MVP after an brilliant 24 points, 23 rebounds, two assists, four turnovers and three steals. Captain Kate Hickey had 14 points and six assists.
Portlaoise Panthers were first off the mark, five points from Gillian Wheeler, followed by Shauna Dooley’s three point jump shot, moved them 8-0 in front a minute and a half in.
Kate Hickey got Wildcats up and running with a three point jump shot, however Dooley’s layup straight afterwards had the Panthers 10-3 ahead.
Wildcats embarked on an eight point run, started by Anna Grogan’s three point jump shot, and finished off with Kate Hickey’s layup and subsequent free throw, after being fouled. A pair of baskets for Portlaoise Panthers re-established a lead for the Midlands side, 14-11, five and a half minutes in.
Wildcats then went on a 13 point run and never looked back. Ciara Butler landed a three with 43 seconds left in the quarter and it was 24-14 to Jillian Hayes’ side, before a late Lisa Blaney layup made it 24-16 at the end of the first quarter.
The Hickey sisters had nine and seven points respectively in the opening quarter and they continued where they left off in the second quarter, Sarah Hickey’s layup with a little over three minutes gone made it 31-20 to Wildcats. Illanna Fitzgerald cut inside for a layup and it was 35-20 with three minutes to go. A Sarah Hickey layup shortly afterwards and Wildcats had a 17 point lead.
Portlaoise Panthers responded with four points, a Hannah Collins layup and two free throws by Ciara Byrne, to reduce the deficit to 37-24. A Grogan layup in the final minute stretched it to 39-24 at half-time in favour of the Wildcats. Sarah Hickey had with 13 points and 12 rebounds by the break, while her sister Kate was on 12 points.
A nice scooped layup from Lisa Blaney in the fourth minute of the third saw Portlaoise Panthers trail 43-30. A pair of layups and two free throws from Ciara Byrne followed and it was a seven point gap, 43-36. Kate Hickey broke that scoring run with another layup for Wildcats, then Sarah Hickey landed two free throws to make it 47-36 by the midpoint of the quarter. Blaney’s layup with 1’50 left and it was a 10-point game, 49-39, but Sarah Hickey notched up the quarter’s final points with 21 seconds to go and Wildcats were 51-39 in front.
A Bami Olukovode layup for Wildcats in the fourth minute of the final quarter had them up 56-43. Portlaoise continued to try and force their way back into it, a steal and layup from Wheeler and it was 58-46 midway through the quarter. But Sarah Hickey continued to torment Portlaoise Panthers, her layup with 4’14 left brought her to 24 points and Waterford Wildcats led 60-46. The Wildcats side safely negotiated the final minutes to run out 67-51 winners.
Head coach Jillian Hayes said: “It means an awful lot, I have been coaching most of these girls since they were 12 years of age, so just so delighted. We won an U16 All-Ireland with them and this was their dream to win an U20 one. We lost to Portlaoise (Panthers) in the U18 Cup two years ago, so we wanted revenge today. All the girls stepped up and did a great job.”
Asked about the performances of her daughters Kate and Sarah Hickey, Hayes added: “It’s kind of been stressful in our house for the last week, we’ve had Schools All-Irelands and Covid has played such havoc with our training sessions, so I have been a little bit stressed and passing it on to them, so maybe they just went and did it for their mother today, to calm down!”
Wildcats: Ciara Butler, Niamh Corcoran, Orla Dullaghan, Illanna Fitzgerald, Aoife Grant, Anna Grogan, Kate Hickey, Sarah Hickey, Grace O’Brien, Bami Olukovode, Kellie Raethome, Adriana Shallci.
Scorers: Sarah Hickey (24), Kate Hickey (14), Bami Olukovode (10), Anna Grogan (9), Ciara Butler (5), Illanna Fitzgerlad (4), Niamh Corcoran (1).
Portlaoise Panthers: Shauna Dooley, Lisa Blaney, Ciara Byrne, Jasmine Burke, Hannah Collins, Ella Byrne, Gillian Wheeler, Sarah Tuohy, Sarah Fleming.