The Sunshine Coast Lightning have qualified for a fifth consecutive Super Netball finals series after overcoming the loss of influential shooter Steph Wood to claim a dramatic 64-63 overtime victory over the top-ranked GIANTS.
Some clutch long-range shooting from Sophie Dwyer (6/7 super shots) helped the GIANTS recover from 5 goals down with 4 minutes left to force overtime.
But a contact penalty against Dwyer in the final minute of the extra period handed the Lightning 1 final opportunity to snatch victory and Peace Proscovia coolly slotted the match-winning goal in the dying seconds of the extra period.
The result eliminates the in-form Collingwood Magpies from play-off contention and locks in the 4 semi-finals combatants with 1 round left to play.
“I’m so exhausted, I don’t even know what happened,” Lightning centre Mahalia Cassidy told the Nine Network moments after the heart-stopping win.
“It was such a full 65 minutes today and I’m so happy that we got it – it was really important for us to make finals.”
With plenty on the line for both teams, the match was played at a high intensity with a number of physical clashes – with GIANTS defender April Brandley joining Wood on the sidelines with an ankle problem.
Stifling defence helped the GIANTS open up a 5-goal gap in the opening quarter but Sunshine Coast responded with Cara Koenen connecting on all 11 of her shots to level the scores at 16-16.
Both sides took the physicality up a notch in the second period but a string of penalties and 9 turnovers for the quarter proved costly for the GIANTS as the Lightning edged ahead 31-28 at half-time.
Sunshine Coast increased their lead to 5 goals in the third quarter but with Wood sidelined, Dwyer stepped up with 3 super shots to cut the Lightning’s advantage to 45-44.
A super shot from Dwyer handed the GIANTS a 1-goal lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter but Proscovia intervened to send the game into overtime before clinching a nail-biting win with the final act of the game.