Karla Pretorius’s extra-time heroics saved the Sunshine Coast Lightning from a shock upset in the side’s 67-65 Suncorp Super Netball win against a brave Collingwood Magpies at USC Stadium.
A boil over was on the cards until the dying seconds when the Lightning skipper stepped up with 2 intercepts to launch the home side 4 points clear at the top of the competition table.
Collingwood finished last in 2020 but have been pushing the top four this season and had control of the game until a Steph Wood super shot with 3 minutes left in regulation time.
Magpies shooter Shimona Nelson (52 goals at 91 per cent) had a blinder in her 50th Super Netball game but missed with an attempt in the dying seconds that would have handed the Victorians a famous upset.
At the other end, Sunshine Coast’s Cara Koenen rarely missed with a match-winning 46 goals that underlined why she looms as the future of the Australian national team’s shooting circle.
Under enormous pressure from champion Geva Mentor and Jodie-Ann Ward, Koenen’s confidence, movement and unflappable nature ensured she had a mighty influence over the contest.
Magpies coach Nicole Richardson said goal attack Gabby Sinclair (13 goals at 90 per cent) and defender Ward could have done little more in the hunt for their biggest scalp of the season.
With a top-four berth in sight, Collingwood jumped the Lightning early thanks to sizzling shooting accuracy that hovered at about 95 per cent for most of the first half.
The key to their strong start was supersonic delivery into attack that prevented the Lightning’s gun defensive duo of Phumza Maweni and Pretorius a clear shot at winning turnovers.
Koenen made the most of her hard-earned shooting opportunities. She wore some body shots early, with opponent Ward spoken to, but not officially cautioned, by umpires for repeated contacts.
The injection of Maddy McAuliffe at centre and shooter Peace Proscovia gave the Lightning extra spark in the third term.
The hosts focused their defensive energy on shutting down Collingwood star Kelsey Browne, a tactic that starved the Magpies of opportunities.