Melbourne Vixens survived an indifferent performance to overcome a fierce fight from Adelaide Thunderbirds 51-47 and clinch the minor premiership.
Melbourne Vixens survived an indifferent performance to overcome a fierce fight from Adelaide Thunderbirds 51-47 and clinch the minor premiership at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre on Saturday night.
Trailing for much of the game, the Vixens outscored the Thunderbirds 13-5 in the final quarter to confirm their favouritism for the premiership.
The Thunderbirds looked set to climb into the top four and end a nine-year hiatus from finals action when they led by four goals at three-quarter time, only to stumble badly in the final 15 minutes.
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“I’m impressed the way we stood up and finished the game,” Vixens coach Simone McKinnis said. “It was a tough, tough game.
“The Thunderbirds did some great stuff and played some really good netball. They had a lot on the line with their season, but I’m really happy we found a way to get the win.”
McKinnis was adamant Netball Australia’s decision to take the grand final to Perth, potentially robbing the Vixens of a home title decider, had not impacted on the side’s preparation.
“We move on, that is not in our control and we move on and do what we do and what is in our control,” she said. “And that is how we perform on court.
“I’d be happy to go to Perth for the grand final. But there is a fair bit of netball before that. We can be happy with the minor premiership and the win today.”
South African shooter Lenize Potgieter was back in the Thunderbirds starting line-up after being replaced by training partner Lucy Austin the previous round.
Austin came into the side for the loss to Giants Netball after Georgie Horjus pulled out because of illness. Horjus returned to the line-up and her presence was crucial as the Thunderbirds challenged the ladder-leaders early.
It was an uncharacteristic start from the normally composed Vixens, coughing up several early turnovers.
After the Vixens gained composure and built a two-goal lead, the Thunderbirds went to work and posed plenty of questions for the Vixens, the home side’s defensive pressure relentless and creating issues for the visitors.
The Jamaican defensive circle duo Latanya Wilson and Shamera Sterling were outstanding, although they had plenty of teammates prepared to put pressure on every Vixens pass.
While the Vixens racked up the penalties, their attack end was also unsettled by the persistent efforts of their opponents and they struggled to get clean delivery into the circle. That was evident by the fact it took almost seven minutes for star shooter Mwai Kumwenda to register her first goal.
As reward for their committed defensive actions, the Thunderbirds bagged five unanswered goals to grab the ascendency and a three-goal quarter-time lead.
The Vixens, with Kate Moloney the general in centre, nailed the first four goals of the second period and their movement was much cleaner.
But there is plenty of belief and fight in the Thunderbirds, and they continued to challenge the Vixens.
“It shows the margins in the league and how ruthless you need to be,” Thunderbirds coach Tania Obst said.
“We got a lesson in the last quarter in how to play out a quarter.
“For three quarters we were fantastic, the last quarter is a bitter pill to swallow.
“It probably takes away our opportunity for finals and that is where we want to head.”
CHAOS AS GIANTS WIN THRILLER WITH BIG FINALS IMPLICATIONS
Giants Netball have dealt a devastating blow to the Queensland Firebirds’ finals hopes as they ran out 73-72 point winners in front of a sold out purple crowd at Nissan Arena.
The victory will be a relief for Giants, securing them a spot in the finals with one match
to go in the regular season.
This second of two First Nations’ Round matches was to be a celebration which lifted the Firebirds to another level. But going down in the dying seconds of the match will leave them anxiously relying on results falling their way next week, if they have any chance
of going further in the season.
After a nervous start where both teams coughed up ball, it was the Giants who were able to settle first.
Veteran defender April Brandley was instrumental in Giants gaining the lead, getting her feet around and collecting two early possessions.
As they have done all season, Giants brilliantly utilised the Supershot to get out to a five goal lead. The Firebirds opted for a less risky style of play, preferring to sink high percentage one point goals through each power five period and take selective two-point
A key matchup of the game was played out between English internationals Jo Harten (Giants) and Eboni Usoro-Brown (Firebirds). Usoro-Brown took bragging rights in the first half, keeping Harten to -16.5 Nissan Net Points and only 16/21, while the defender also
collected four rebounds and one intercept. Harten turned it around in the second half to finish the match with 40/45.
Harten’s shooting partner, Sophie Dwyer produced one of her best games of the season. She was accurate at the post shooting 27/29 but was also a workhorse out the front.
Giants’ midcourt had a solid defensive game, with match MVP Jamie-Lee Price leading the way with one intercept, one deflection and two pickups, to go with her 40 feeds.
If finals are decided by percentage, Firebirds will be ruing missed opportunities and costly turnovers, with veteran Gretel Bueta the most expensive, giving away nine, including one breaking call which swung the momentum of the match in the visitor’s favour.
In one of the most exciting finishes of the season, the match came down to a long bomb shootout with both Firebird’s Donnell Wallam and Harten exchanging blows. With just 4 seconds to go, Harten took a clutch shot to close out the match.
FIRST NATIONS ROUND
Last week’s memorable win over West Coast Fever occurred on the first of two First Nation’s Rounds and coincided with Indigenous athlete Donnell Wallam’s first professional match in front of her Noongar family on home Whadjuk soil.
This week, the focus shifted to the Firebirds other Indigenous athlete Jemma Mi Mi. The former New South Wales athlete now calls Brisbane home and celebrated with close friends and family in the stands who cheered as she took to the court on Turrbal and Jagera
Young Queensland Firebirds defender Ruby Bakewell-Doran was this week rewarded for her consistent season with a Diamonds Squad elevation. The goal defence has been solid for the Firebirds in her first contracted season. After 12 Rounds, she sits seventh in the league
for intercepts (taking 18), sixth for deflections (42), and 12th for rebounds (14th). But her attacking statistics are also impressive, with her having taken 43 centre receives, and 59 second phase receives.
Bakewell-Doran and her Firebirds teammate Donnell Wallam will enter the Diamonds camp as the two newest Diamonds squad members vying for a Commonwealth Games selection.
With the announcement of two athletes being elevated to the Diamonds squad this week, Giants’ fans will be hoping that their versatile midcourter, Maddie Hay will be in contention for one of the two remaining places. Hay has gone under the radar for much of the
season, quietly going about her business as she notches some of her best stats to date, sitting second in the league for centre receives (taking 282), sixth for feeds (342) and 11th for second phase receives (114). As a former defensive player, Hay also contributes
defensively having collected 13 pickups and being the only wing attack sitting inside the top 25 for intercepts.
Fans know that Diamonds selectors will be looking at combinations when selecting squad members, so will be hoping that Hay’s existing combinations with fellow Diamonds’ squad members, Jamie-Lee Price, Amy Parmenter and Sophie Dwyer will help Hay’s cause.
Originally published as Minor premiers crowned as Thunderbirds fall short; Giants win thriller — Netball Wrap