Sunshine Coast Lightning has been defeated by the Melbourne Vixens in a close match that saw Lightning leading for most of the game. While Lightning had a strong start winning the first and second quarters, they weren’t able to keep hold of the lead and fell short by 4 points (56-60).
Lightning saw another debut take the court, with young midcourter Ava Black becoming Lightning player #31.
Lightning score a quick goal from the first centre pass within 15 seconds of the whistle, but Vixens respond with a quick goal in return from Mwai Kumwenda. An uncharacteristic breaking call from Steph turns the ball over early, but KD responds not long after with a tip that disrupts the Vixens attack-end. It’s an incredibly close match, and a physical one, with both teams going hard for the ball in attack and tight in defence.
Steph and Cara show their connection is firing with multiple shooter-to-shooter balls that catches the Vixen’s defenders with their eyes down. The tight Lightning defence causes a held ball for the Vixens in the shooting circle, but they aren’t able to convert on the following centre pass. A wind-up shoulder pass from Jo Weston coming from the centre third into Kumwenda gets intercepted by KD. Vixens sink a Suncorp Super Shot to end the first.
Vixens get a tip early to turn Lightning’s first centre pass. There are a couple of turnovers from both teams, with both struggling to settle for the first few minutes of the second quarter. Once it settles the game is neck-and-neck, seeing both Lightning and Vixens continue to score off their centre passes. It’s a physical battle with the two sides desperate to gain ball in defence. KD picks up an intercept, and Steph continues to rack up the goal assists into Diamonds teammate, Cara. Lightning creep out to a 4-goal lead which causes Vixens to call a time out.
After a turnover from Lightning, they step up with full-court defensive pressure, causing Vixens to throw the ball away. After a Lightning miss-feed, Cara goes immediately into defence and picks up an intercept. Vixens finish the second quarter with two Super Shots which closes the gap to two.
Lightning start the third quarter how they began the game. Mahalia takes an impressive ball with pressure coming from Liz Watson that sends Mahalia to the floor. The contact causes the umpire to call time and ask Mahalia to be checked by the doctor for concussion, which sees Shannon Eagland take the court. Mahalia comes back on once cleared, but Coach B makes another change – giving Shez a rest and bringing on Ava Black for her SSN debut.
Lightning step it up in defence, forcing Vixens to play the ball around for a while before they’re able to get it in to goal. After a few minutes, Ava Black goes back to the bench and Shez returns into the centre position. Vixens cause a turnover and bring the score back to even. The tempo lifts with one minute to go in the third, and Vixens take the lead for the first time this match.
Q4 | 56-60
Austin, who is known for her skills in defence, almost gets an intercept early on in the fourth but is called for contact. Steph continues to connect with Cara, sending a long ball straight to her teammate under the ring. Cara picks up a ball that almost goes out of play, but then can’t keep her hands on a quick feed that comes back her way. A couple of early turnovers see Lightning take a tactical time-out. Pressure appears to be building for Lightning, which sees Steph miss a shot from within Super Shot distance.
Mahalia gets a tip which is picked up from Shez and is closely followed by another pick-up for Lightning as the ball goes through Liz Watson’s hands. Vixens GK, Emily Mannix picks up an intercept over Cara and Lightning call another time-out when behind by 5 goals. Ava Black comes back on after the timeout which sends Annie to the bench and moves Shez into WA. Steph and Cara both sink three super shots between them in the final minutes, but it’s not enough to claw back the 4-goal lead of the Vixens.
Lightning’s shooters were impressive, with Cara shooting 41/43 at 95% and Steph shooting 12/14 at 86%. Steph also picked up the most goal assists, feeds and centre pass receives on court, getting an impressive 28, 34 and 22 respectively. KD played hard on former teammate Mwai Kumwenda, ending the match on 2 rebounds, 2 intercepts and 6 deflections.