With the final run to the playoffs well underway, the Sunshine Coast Lightning hosted the West Coast Fever for round 12. The result of the game was never in doubt, but with the post-Easter break performance of the Lightning looking less polished this was an opportunity to show the Sunshine Coast crowd what they are capable of.

The Fever opened with experienced shooter Kate Beveridge in the shooting position, over the talented youngster Kaylia Stanton. The decision proved fruitful early in the first quarter with the Fever taking the lead early on. Defensively the Fever worked beautifully, Bruce, Francis and Anstiss forcing errors and sapping the confidence of the Lightning attack. With Medhurst and Beveridge firing nicely the Fever managed to build a 10-5 lead.

Photo: Marcela Massey Photography

The Lightning regrouped behind the play of Steph Wood. Wood took eight minutes to contribute her first point, but it was the turning point for the quarter. Wood’s contributions were not limited to scoring, as we see her diving after loose balls. As the quarter progressed the Fever began to misfire and the Lightning defensive unit came alive. The flow of ball became somewhat more difficult for the Fever. Two missed shots by Medhurst, and flawless shooting from the home side saw the quarter close tied at 13 goals each.

Steph Wood opened the quarter with two goals from baseline to set the tone for the quarter. The Fever too frequently failing to connect on passes – too early, too late – but it is a standard of play the Lightning can punish brutally. A significant portion of the Fever’s struggles has to be credited to the defensive pressure from Scherian and Langman, with Charles and Colyer rarely able to find space. An airball from Bassett was evidence that the Fever defenders were still working effectively against a very polished attack, but it wasn’t enough to keep them in the game, the Fever, unable to follow through on the opportunities created through the defence.

Photo: Marcela Massey Photography

With two and a half minutes to go until half time, Fever coach Stacey Marinkovich called for a tactical time-out, looking to close the gap in the final couple of minutes. To the surprise of the audience, immediately after the cessation of the Fever timeout, the Lightning called time before any play could commence. Mentor could be heard over the crowd, calling for intensity and purpose as priorities in the last moments of the quarter. In a flourish of goals the Lightning manage to push their lead to seven as the half-time siren sounded. Fever were unable to deliver when it counted and struggled to turn opposition turnovers into scoring goals. For the Lightning, Wood and Bassett proved too accurate despite strong defence.

As the third quarter commenced, neither team gave into the temptation to adjust the line-up. The Fever continued to apply impressive defensive pressure and the Lightning able to work its way through that pressure. Defensively the Lightning is are so effective, particularly through the midcourt, though Mentor was not as dominant as she has been previously. While the stat sheet fails to record the impact of the Lightning defence, the Fever midcourt felt the presence of Langman and Scherian off the ball as they searched for space to run and avenues in which to pass into the circle.

Photo: Marcela Massey Photography

At the commencement of the final quarter, the Fever shuffled the lineup, moving Anstiss forward to centre, Charles to the bench. Jess Eales, training partner for the Fever, steps into the wing defence position, the youngster impressed with strong hustle for the loose ball. Lightning again chose to run with the same lineup as they commenced the game with. The move of Anstiss forward destabilised both ends of the court. The defence were less effective, and the attack looked more-vulnerable to the Lightning defenders. Bruce a definite highlight as the Fever’s predicament darkened.

Wood’s contribution to the Lightning attack was immense, Bruce doing as good a job as could be expected against one of the premier shooters in the competition, Wood proved pivotal to the result of the game, and ultimately took the MVP award on the background of that performance.

An adjustment to the Fever lineup saw the towering Annika-Lee Jones take to court as GK, moving Bruce to GD, and Francis out to WD. Charles also returning to the court, replacing Anstiss. With five minutes to go, and a twelve point lead, Lightning make some adjustments to their lineup, bringing Carla Koenen onto the court at goal shooter, allowing Bassett to earn a well-deserved break, Browne sits with Sherian moving forward into the WA spot. Langman takes the centre bib, with Madeline McAuliffe in WD and Erena Mikaere joining Mentor in the circle defence gaining some very valuable court-time and experience for the Lightning bench coming into the playoffs.

Photo: Marcela Massey Photography

The depth in talent on this team a worrying sign for future opponents as their second group continued to build on the lead as the quarter continued; the bench players demonstrated a confidence far above their limited court experience. The Lightning closed the game with a fourteen point lead, too good across the court.

The Fever definitely showed a defence worthy in this competition, but far too regularly were unable to score off those defensive opportunities. The expectation is on Medhurst to contribute more to the team if success is to be expected, which in some ways is very true, but the entire attack end needs to lift. They have three very capable shooters, but the delivery of the ball and transition through the midcourt is hurting them. There is enough talent in this side, but not the synergy.

Photo: Marcela Massey Photography

The Lightning host the Swifts in round thirteen while the Fever head back to Perth with another dominant side to face in the Collingwood Magpies. Captain Geva Mentor stated after the game that there are plenty of areas to work on to improve as they head toward the playoffs. Wood has certainly put a lot of pressure on selectors for Diamonds with another great performance.

Sunshine Coast Lightning 64 def West Coast Fever 50
Player of the Match:
Steph Wood (Lightning)

Sunshine Coast Lightning
Bassett 36/41 88%
Wood 25/32 78%
Koenen 3/4 75%
64/77 83%

West Coast Fever
Beveridge 34/40 85%
Medhurst 16/23 70%
50/63 79%

 

Twitter: @taipan_gc
Photos: Marcela Massey Photography