THEY put their supporters through the mill, but LYIT Donegal maintained their fine start to the new season with a nervy win over Portlaoise Panthers at An Danlann.
LYIT Donegal 79 Portlaoise Panthers 74
By Chris McNulty at An Danlann
With two minutes to go in the second quarter, LYIT Donegal led 43-23 and the game looked up.
However, by the close of the third, LYIT Donegal were ahead by the minimum, 55-54 and for a brief few moments of a pulsating fourth period, they even fell behind.
But the big players came good when LYIT Donegal needed them most. Manny Payton – a closed season recruit from Framingham State University – top scored with 23, taking his season’s total to 243 in the process.
13 of Payton’s tally came in the closing seven minutes as LYIT Donegal stay right in the hunt at the upper end of Basketball Ireland Men’s Division One.
The excellent Kareem Davis popped the Panthers in front with two superb three-pointers early in the fourth quarter.
LYIT Donegal shook their heads clear.
A Payton free-throw levelled the game up with 6:43 left on the clock.
German giant Dominique Uhl had another fine game for the home side. The towering Uhl, standing at 6’9”, was at the hub of much of the positive plays for LYIT Donegal while Letterkenny man Andrew McGeever put five between the teams with a neat three-pointer to settle the nerves.
James Phealan narrowed the margin again, but LYIT Donegal found the top gears to close out the win.
A couple excellent baskets from Payton lifted the home support, who watched through the gaps in their fingers during the third quarter as their advantage was eroded.
Successful free throws from McGeever and Uhl took LYIT Donegal to their latest win – it’s now seven wins from eight League games for the Niall McDermott-coached side.
That record represents their best-ever start to a campaign.
Last weekend, they overcame IT Carlow 86-76 away from home and this was their first home game in a month.
They began here with a real purpose and were double scores, 22-11, ahead by the end of the first quarter, with McGeever landing a couple of beauties and Payton’s late dart put them firmly in command.
A quick-fire start to the second period opened up a 19-point advantage with McGeever, Uhl and Charlie McKinney on the board.
Sean Condon spurned four free throws for the visitors as LYIT Donegal opened up a big lead – one that looked unassailable.
Yet, the Panthers hit back to outscore their hosts 23-12 in the third quarter, when they drew level on two separate occasions, inspired by Davis and the classy Phealan.
It was Davis who put the Panthers in front early in the fourth, bu Payton’s free throw was the catalyst for LYIT Donegal to return to some form – just in the nick of time.
McGeever – back with his hometown after a four-year stint at Killester – landed a delicious three-pointers as LYIT Donegal re-asserted their dominance.
Payton was given a two-minute rest at the start of the fourth, but came into the fold to inspire a vital win ahead of next week’s trek to Division leaders, Ballincollig.
LYIT Donegal scorers: Manny Payton 23, Dominque Uhl 21, Andrew McGeever 18, David Curran 6, Mario Garcia 4, Aaron Temple, Charlie McKinney 3,, Edjer Aukoc, Mark Cannon 2,
Portlaoise Panthers scorers: Kareem Davis 22, James Phealan 17, Sean Condon 13, Kyle Burke 10, Trevor Swayne, Gary Morrissey 6Tags: