The NSW Swifts have booked their place in the Super Netball major-semi-final with a 69-64 victory over Sunshine Coast Lightning at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena.
With placings in the top 4 up for grabs in Saturday’s crucial double-header, the Swifts held off a late challenge from the Lightning to secure a valuable double-chance as they chase a seventh national league title.
The result of the regular season’s final game between West Coast Fever and the Giants will not only reveal the Swift’s opponent in the grand final qualifier but will determine the winner of Super Netball’s minor premiership.
The Fever or Giants will finish top with a victory, thanks to a superior points percentage, while a draw would result in the Swifts closing the season as minor premiers.
The Swifts stunned the Lightning with the opening 6 goals of the game and appeared on target for an emphatic win as they cruised to a 15-goal advantage in the second quarter.
But Sunshine Coast refused to throw in the towel as they inched their way back in the second half, while Cara Koenen created some anxious moments for the Swifts with 3 super shots in the fourth quarter.
Koenen’s final 2-point shot reduced the margin to 4 with less than a minute to play but the Swifts kept their cool to complete the win.
The impact of injured attacker Steph Wood’s absence was evident from the outset as the Lightning coughed up 3 early turnovers.
Dynamic mid-courter Paige Hadley did not feature in the match but with experienced English Rose Nat Haythornthwaite slotting in at wing attack, the Swifts did not miss a beat as they built a sizeable 40-29 lead at halftime.
A resolute effort from the Lightning in the third quarter cut the deficit to 8 points but a costly turnover on their final possession of the term allowed the Swifts to regain their double-digit advantage.
A heavy collision forced Swifts defender Maddy Turner to leave the court early in the fourth quarter with concerns a potential concussion could hold her out of the major semi-final.