By: Netball Australia

The Sunshine Coast Lightning took another big step towards securing their place in the Super Netball Finals Series after pulling off a crucial 71-66 win over GIANTS Netball at UniSC Arena.

In their previous encounter, the GIANTS secured the four-points after a controversial extra-time win in Round 5. Seeking redemption, the Lightning were determined to claim victory in their final home game of the season and solidify their fourth spot on the ladder.

Players of the match, Ash Ervin and Liz Watson were standouts for the home side. Ervin dominated on court, overpowering the GIANTS attack end with five intercepts and three deflections in the first half alone. The Lightning youngster and newly named Australian Diamond, has well and truly solidified her place within Lightning’s starting seven, as Courtney Bruce remains on limited minutes due to a previous injury.

Another stand out for the Lightning was Ava Black, who worked overtime at Wing Defence to create defensive opportunities for her side. Black came up with two crucial intercepts and two deflections, before taking a well earned break during the final term.

Player of the match Liz Watson was a standout for the Lightning

Everything was going the GIANTS’ way in the opening quarter, as the traveling side made their intentions clear by fiercely attacking the super shot with confidence. Sophie Dwyer and Jo Harten nailed five two-pointers in the first term, giving the team in orange a three-goal lead at the end of a frantic fifteen minutes.

For the Lightning, it was no surprise to see captain Steph Fretwell standing up in the clinch moments of the match. Fretwell remained cool, calm and collected throughout the seesawing battle, slotting in eight super shots and creating multiple goal scoring opportunities within Lightning’s attack end.

With the lead chopping and changing on the back of mini runs by both teams, the Lightning put their foot down with a 23-12 second quarter. The crowd became the eighth player on court, as Lightning blitzed ahead and the GIANTS showed no signs of slowing the hosts down.

Despite playing on limited minutes, Bruce made her moments on court count

Sunshine Coast Lightning coach Belinda Reynolds was looking to build connections within her defence as the road to finals looms, bringing Courtney Bruce into the mix at Goal Defence with Ash Ervin remaining at Goal Keeper.

The third quarter saw the GIANTS work overtime to claw back their deficit, with their hard work paying off to chip away at the scoreline. A much-needed super shot off the hands of Harten kept the GIANTS within firing distance, but a few two-pointers from Fretwell maintained Lightning’s lead at the end of the term.

The defence from Lightning stepped up to another level in the final quarter, forcing multiple held balls down the GIANTS’ attack end. Another change from the Lightning saw Ervin move to the bench and the combination of Bruce and Hinchliffe come to life.

With only five goals separating the sides on the eve of the final Power Five of the game, all eyes were on the shooters from both teams. Super shots rained down both ends of the court, but it was the Lightning who remained in front after creating a much-needed buffer in the earlier quarters.

Picking up the pace with their ball speed ensured the GIANTS defenders had little time to interrupt the flow with Fretwell and Watson continuing to pull the strings for the Lightning. A super shot from Fretwell was the nail in the coffin, with the Lightning securing victory in their final home game of the season.

The GIANTS remain at the bottom of the ladder, with their chances of finishing in the top four by the end of the regular season not looking promising. They find themselves up against the West Coast Fever in Round 12, who will be looking for a win after recently going down to the Queensland Firebirds in the upset of the season. For the Lightning, they remain in fourth at the end of Round 11, with the monumental challenge of taking on fifth place Melbourne Mavericks next week at MyState Bank Arena.

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