The Panthers committed six turnovers in the third, but treys from Caitlyn O’Neal at the 4:18 mark and Carley O’Neal with 1:08 left in the third, with Mater Dei struggling from the field, were enough to give Western a 27-25 lead heading into the fourth.
”I didn’t think twice about it,” Carley O’Neal said of the defensive pressure. “I just saw them coming at me, and knew I had to avoid it and get the ball to someone who was open.
Caitlyn interjected saying: “After a few turnovers we realized we couldn’t attack horizontally. We need to move and pass the ball moving forward.”
Mater Dei post Tori Schickel spent most of the game in foul trouble, forcing Muensterman, a point guard by nature, to move to the post for key stretches of the second half, taking the Wildcats out their game plan offensively.
A pair of Muensterman free throws knotted the score at 27 with 6:17 to play, but with the help of an inspired performance over the next five minutes from reserve Siera Daniel, the Panthers were able to stretch out a 36-30 lead by the 1:10 mark.
Daniel scored a putback off of a Raven Black miss, blocked a Schickel shot in the post which led to a transition layup from Carley O’Neal, and then blocked another shot attempt from Schickel in a stretch that seemed to energize the Panthers and feed their beliefs of being able to close out a victory.
“Partially it was auto-pilot,” Daniel said. “But, through the week I came to know that I had to get to [Schickel]. She’s one of the best post players I’ve ever seen. We had to stop her. I knew to keep my hands straight up and I ended up blocking them. Raven had a great drive, and without that drive, putback wouldn’t have been there. It happened so fast. I’ll never forget that moment – ever – in my life.”