By: Suncorp Super Netball
The Sunshine Coast Lightning have finished their season on a high, taking home the Queensland Cup after overpowering the Queensland Firebirds with a 66-60 win.
With both sides not playing in the finals, Lightning and the Firebirds were battling it out for state pride in the last Queensland Derby of the 2023 season.
It was the visitors who came out firing, taking an early lead over the slow starting Sunshine Coast Lightning.
Remi Kamo made her presence known early, coming up with two intercepts for the Firebirds, while her defensive partner Ruby Bakewell-Doran impressed with a goal assist through a long pass into Wallam from the centre third.
After trailing for a majority of the first term, the Lightning were able to tie the score up at 10 a-piece going into the Power Five.
Donnell Wallam sunk the first Super Shot of the game, with Steph Wood unable to reply down the other end missing her first two-pointer attempt.
A held ball against the Firebirds was capitalised by the Lightning and a goal off the hands of Wood in the Super Shot zone levelled the score at 16-16. But it was youngster Emily Moore who drained a Super Shot on the buzzer and put her side ahead by two goals going into quarter time.
The purple army continued to play with freedom in the second term, forcing a positional switch from the Lightning, bringing Kadie-Ann Dehaney into the match at goalkeeper.
A hard knock between Steph Wood and Gabi Simpson resulted in Wood coming off court with blood and Charlie Bell entered the game at goal shooter for Lightning.
Momentum begun to swing in the Lightning’s favour through the third quarter, with Wood coming back on court after being stitched up during half time.
Dehaney started to create doubt in the minds of the Firebirds’ feeders, winning the ball over Wallam in the goal circle.
A Super Shot off the hands of Wood pulled the margin back down to three and the Firebirds were forced to call a timeout as the Lightning took control of the game.
After being down by ten goals at one point, the score was all locked up at 47-47 after a courageous fightback from the home side.
After working overtime to find their rhythm, the Lightning continued to push forward as their sold-out home crowd became the eighth player on court, loudly willing their team on.
A seven-goal run from the hosts forced another Firebirds timeout and Wallam was called to the bench after being smothered by Lightning’s defence.
South African international Karla Pretorius came alive in the second half, coming away with four deflections, one intercept and two rebounds.
The shooting change for the Firebirds didn’t pay off and Wallam re-entered the game, draining a crucial Super Shot as the visitors trailed by nine goals.
Despite an impressive run of Super Shots off the hands of Wallam, the Firebirds were unable to withstand the Lightning’s force in the final term and the home side came away with a six-goal win.
The Firebirds finish the 2023 season seventh on the ladder, while the Lightning cement fifth place, a massive turnaround from their wooden spoon ending last year.