An intense game going into extra time between two sides who will feature in this year’s finals series. The Sunshine Coast Lightning fought for a win against the GWS Giants 64-63, securing Lightning’s position in the top 4 coming into the final round of the season.
Both teams knew there was plenty on the line and not just locking in finals positions. With only one game left in both team’s schedules (Lightning to face the Swifts and Giants against the West Coast Fever respectively in Round 14) both teams will look to start their finals preparations early, after a close encounter this afternoon.
Both teams celebrated milestones tonight. For the Sunshine Coast Lightning, Vice-Captain Steph Wood celebrated 100 national games tonight and for the Giants, veteran Sam Poolman also celebrated her 100th national game. Two senior players who have done so much for their respective clubs over a number of years.
Starting the match strongly, both teams put the defensive pressure on and set the tone early in the game, that this was going to be a tough one.
A close first quarter with both sides shooting the lights out in regulation time and during the rebel power 5. In the past, Lightning has been remiss to rely on the super shot and this game was no different, in spite of the intensity and pressure of the moment.
Mahalia Cassidy had a defensive impact early for the Lightning, ending the first quarter with two intercepts to her name whilst for the Giants, April Brandly was dominant defensively picking up great ball. Going goal for goal, there was nothing separating these two teams going into the first quarter time break with scores level at 16-16.
Umpires had strong words with the players, keeping a control of the physicality awarding cautions to Giants wing defender Amy Parmenter and centre Jamie Lee-Price who caused a massive off the ball collision with Cassidy.
Giants captain Jo Harten smartly called for a time-out after the cautions were dealt, telling her team “let’s use our brains!”. Harten went on to shoot a critical super shot, but it wasn’t enough to take the lead, with the Lightning leading at half time 31 to 28.
The second quarter has many cautions, the next being dealt to the Lightning captain, Karla Pretorius. With 16 penalties and one caution for Lightning and 31 penalties and two cautions for Giants in the first half, it is interesting to note that both teams used time-outs to their advantage to calm down the game, as the physicality started to get out of hand.
It’s easy to forget that this season is the young Giants goal attack, Sophie Dwyers’ debut season! In the face of huge pressure from the Lightning defensive duo in Pretorius and Maweni, she simply did what shooters do best, confidently turned and put up the shot.
In the third quarter, we also saw young defender Tilly McDonell come on for the Giants in goal keeper and had an immediate impact on the game.
Steph Wood is known for being the key playmaker for the Lightning, bringing a world of smarts to the team and effectively opening up the attack end but disaster struck towards the end of the third quarter and it appears her knee buckled underneath her, much like her injury during the game against the Queensland Firebirds in round 12.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Lightning were ahead by only one point 45 to 44, the pressure from both teams not letting up.
Lightning dominating the top of the stats in gains and intercepts, with a total of four gains for Cassidy and Pretorius and midcourter Scherian at third most gains with two. Cassidy having a blinder had three intercepts, with Scherian and Pretorius both sitting at two.
Towards the end of the third quarter Giants defender April Brandley, unfortunately, went down out of play with a possible ankle injury, no word yet on the severity.
The fourth caution of the game dealt to Lightning goal keeper Phumza Maweni cautioned for contesting the shot and landing on the shooter.
The intensity in the game is palpable, finishing the fourth quarter tied at 60, going into an exciting extra time period! For an already high-pressure game, extra time proved to be a preview for what the finals series might look like.
With an offensive contact from Sophie Dwyer in the dying minutes of extra time, the turnover allowed for Peace Proscovia to win it for the Lightning shooting a single-point goal and securing Lightning’s spot in the finals series winning the game 64 to 63.
Mahalia Cassidy was named Player of the Match and deservedly so, after an incredible game by her this afternoon. Cassidy had a huge impact for her team with 16 goal assists, 23 feeds, and three intercepts.
While the Sunshine Coast Lightning won’t be in contention for the minor premiership, this win and upcoming finals series marks five finals that the Lightning will play in since the team launched which is no small feat.
The minor premiership is still up for grabs for the Giants, who won it in 2018, after not making the finals series last year all eyes will be on the match-up against Fever next week in the final round of the regular season.