BANGOR, Maine — Husson University women’s basketball coach Kissy Walker said watching sophomore center Sami Ireland play reminds her a lot of one of her former players, Becky Moholland.
That is to be expected. Moholland is Ireland’s mother.
“They are so similar that it takes me back sometimes,” Husson’s coach said. “They both play in the post, they have the same moves in there and they can shoot the six- to eight-foot jumper.”
She also said they have similar personalities.
“They are both very easy-going, laid-back type of people,” Walker said. “But they battle when they get on the floor.”
Moholland, a 1,000-point scorer at Calais High School and a 1,000-point scorer in college at the University of Maine at Machias and Husson, said that the older her daughter gets “the more I see myself in her on the court and off the court. She’s a lot like me, although I think she is a little more laid back.
“My daughter is a much better player than I was, but I don’t want to tell her that,” Becky Ireland said, with a chuckle.
“I see pictures of her playing in college and she looks so much like me — long arms and legs. I know I play a lot like her,” Sami said.
Sami Ireland said the two of them have played some one-on-one.
“She’s not as fresh as she once was. She’s had a few surgeries [back, knee]. But she still has that outside shot. She might be able to beat me but one blow to her knee,” said Sami Ireland, a 1,000-point scorer at Howland’s Penobscot Valley High School.
Sami Ireland, the oldest of the late Wayne Ireland and Becky Moholland Ireland’s four children, said her mother has had a great influence on her and she occasionally looks for her in the stands during games.
“I’m hoping she’ll send me some kind of sign to boost my confidence and let me know what I can do better,” Ireland said. “She has always been that type of person for me. She used to help me with my moves in our driveway and she gives me tips after my games now.”
Ireland is having an exceptional year at Husson, and not just in basketball.
The former standout goalkeeper for the Penobscot Valley soccer team returned to the soccer field this past fall and had an outstanding season after deciding not to play her freshman year.
The 5-foot-10 Ireland finished with 91 saves on 114 shots, a 9-6-1 record, a 1.44 goals-against average and a .798 save percentage. She had three shutouts.
In basketball, she is the team’s top rebounder, averaging 6.4 per game, and is the second-leading scorer at 10.1 points per game. She averaged 7.2 points and 4.1 rebounds a year ago.
“I played year-round in high school, and it was weird not to play soccer, so I knew I had to go back,” said Ireland, who admitted that juggling two sports and academics is a challenge.
“It’s definitely hard to adjust. It’s matter of time management. Knowing it’s going to he hard is the biggest thing,” she said. “I thought I could make a big impact on the soccer team, so that’s why I reached out to the coach [Amanda Cummings].“
But Walker and Ireland admit that it took awhile for her to return to form on the basketball court.
“She didn’t start playing well until she was 10 games in. She was frustrated in the beginning. She wasn’t in the condition she would have been in if she hard started with us. But, much like last year, she is playing really well at tournament time,” Walker said.
“It was definitely hard, especially my first few games,” Ireland said. “It’s one thing to be in soccer shape and another to be in basketball shape. It was frustrating for me and my confidence level. But I got back into it thanks to the support of my teammates. Everything started clicking again.”
Ireland, a second team All-NAC selection in basketball, has been clutch in the postseason in helping the Eagles earn a third straight NAC tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament against Bowdoin College on Friday night in Brunswick.
She had 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds along with two steals and a blocked shot in a 56-45 win over New England College of New Hampshire in the quarterfinals; four points, five rebounds and two blocked shots in a 54-49 triumph over Colby-Sawyer of New Hampshire in the semifinals and a game-high 21 points, three blocked shots, three assists and eight rebounds in the 76-58 championship game victory over Maine Maritime Academy.
She is a 63.8 percent shooter from the free throw line but went a critical 11-for-12 versus Maine Maritime.
She gives a lot of credit to junior teammate Kenzie Worcester, who stayed after practice to work with Ireland on her shot and foul shooting.
“She’s a huge part of our team and of our success,” Worcester said. “By being a post player, she has taken a lot of pressure off our guards. She’s a big presence in the post. She posts up well and seals off people. She showed in the final game that she’s good at drawing fouls.”
Ireland feels she is 100 percent better than she was a year ago.
“My confidence is a lot better than last year, and I have a lot more [basketball] IQ with the ball. Instead of the same olds moves that worked for me in high school that I resorted back to my freshman year, I have a lot more options this year,” she said.
Her mother said she is “very proud” of her daughter and said it hasn’t been an easy journey for her or her siblings after losing their dad. Ireland was 12 when her father died.
“She could have easily gone another way but she didn’t. She’s a great kid. She has a great head on her shoulders. She knows what she wants and she fights for it. She always does her best,” Becky Ireland said.
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