PDLS Bagenalstown were crowned All-Ireland Senior Girls School champions on Thursday, with an emphatic 39-27 win over OLSPK, Belfast.
Rachel Sawyer was the spark that ignited a superb performance from PDLS. Indeed Sawyer, along with Amy Dooley and Caoimhe O Neill, were really the unstoppable forces for the Carlow side.
A phenomenal third quarter display saw them out score Belfast by 14-3 and this was where the girls comfortably set themselves up for the victory.
A close and nervy first quarter saw impressive scoring from both teams as Dooley, Niamh Roche and Niamh Forde converted some important shots, rebounds and lay-ups. Niamh Forde had a great first quarter, controlling much of the play.
Scores were at a premium in the second quarter, with both teams defence remaining solid. PDLS were unlucky with some offensive rebounds and remained very strong on backboard with Dooley, O Neill and Anne Roche.
PDLS came out all guns blazing in the third quarter, with Sawyer setting up some great scores for Dooley and O Neill, while Niamh Roche bagged some excellent three pointers to send PDLS into a comfortable 29-17 lead.
However, Belfast were relentless and worked tirelessly for a comeback. O Neill continued to drive to the basket and converted very important free throws. Dooley and Anne Roche were excellent under the basket winning much needed rebounds.
With the inclusion of Helen Roche, PDLS drove forward with fast breaks with Roche converting a fast lay-up to bring the game to 31-19. Niamh Roche was brilliant on point, controlling the cross court pass. PDLS remained on top going into the final quarter.
Anne Roche, O Neill and Dooley controlled the defence with Sawyer and Niamh Roche keeping Belfast’s shooters quiet.
An impressive drive from O Neill and Dooley would end the game on a score line of 39-27 and PDLS were crowned National Champions! Captain Amy Dooley lifted the cup on behalf of her team and her school and Rachel Sawyer was deserving winner of MVP.
Coach, Leon Power, commented on the level of passion, talent and determination of these girls.
“These girls are self starters. They are an amazing bunch of girls who worked tirelessly all year.
“Our season started back in October, where we saw out the South East region. We came up against some strong teams but in each game we improved massively.
“In the All-Ireland playoffs we came up against a strong Cork team but again, the passion and natural talent came to the forefront as we secured a national semi final spot against Jesus & Mary Salerno, Galway.
“The Semi final last month was very tough. We really had to dig deep for that win. Every year, these girls have come so close to the National stage but every year we lose out by the closest of margins.
“We really wanted it this year and we won it, on the big stage of Tallaght. These girls are testament to the hard work that is going on in our school and in particular, Old Leighlin Basketball club, who alongside parents, families and coaches have been a huge part of this amazing win”. he said.
Power also gave a special word of thanks to the players from Carlow IT who helped throughout the year along with all the supporters.
Next year, PDLS will contest ‘A’ Schools Basketball and there is no doubt they will be competitive with the top teams in the country.
Team: Ellen Murphy, Aoife Roche, Rachel Sawyer, Niamh Forde, Orla McDonagh, Niamh Roche, Molly O’Dwyer, Caoimhe O Neill, Anne Roche, Eve Sinnott, Helen Roche, Amy Dooley (capt.), Oonagh Fitzpatrick, Maggie Forde, Laura Bermingham