Queensland Firebirds secured a critical 59-49 win over Sunshine Coast Lightning in front of a bumper crowd at Nissan Arena, Brisbane, as the home side continued its push for an unlikely finals berth.
Prior to the match, Firebirds lost both Tippah Dwan, out due to her exposure at a Tier 1 site, and Tara Hinchcliffe, leg injury suffered at training, which threatened to derail the side as it pushes West Coast Fever for fourth on the ladder (Fever is yet to play Vixens in a rescheduled match).
Post-game, Firebirds coach Megan Anderson said she was proud of her charges after such a disrupted lead-in.
“We found out yesterday morning [Tippah and Tara wouldn’t be playing] so we had 24 hours to think about it,” she said.
“We had [replacement players] Ruby Bakewell-Doran and Mia Stower down in Melbourne for a couple of weeks so they slotted in seamlessly and knew what they were doing. The time in Melbourne made us tighter as a group.
“I think the GIANTS win was the season-defining win, but this one was more special – not knowing if we were going to Adelaide – that 24 hours was just crazy.
“The strength and the belief [of this team] – it warms your heart out there on court when everybody just sticks together.”
The first quarter was a tight contest as both teams were determined to pick up the win as Lightning looked to go top of the table.
With a number of turnovers and great defensive efforts on both ends of the court, Lightning took a narrow 16-14 quarter-time lead from Queensland Firebirds.
Lightning had to shake up its side a number of times, but the club was still on the hunt for the points.
Nothing could separate both teams at halftime as the scores were level, 28-all.
After a fanatic first half, the Firebirds came out and gave it everything in the third-quarter dominating in all areas of the court and working well as a team moving the ball down the court causing headaches for the Lightning.
Centre Kim Ravaillion was unstoppable in her partnership with goal attack Gretel Bueta seemingly back to her best.
Firebirds extended its margin going into the three-quarter time break, 43-41.
In the final term, an unchanged Firebirds line-up continued where they left off as they won plenty of ball back in the defensive end, while the midcourt and attack didn’t look like slowing as they kept composed and calm taking the win by 10 goals.
Firebirds shooter Romelda Aiken came off with what appeared to be an ankle injury, making way for Mia Stower to come onto the court in the final quarter, while Lightning confirmed four players were ‘being looked at’ by support staff.
That includes star goaler Steph Wood and mid-court dynamo Laura Scherian.
Gretel Bueta was named player of the match.
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