By: Netball Australia

As the final whistle sounded, the GIANTS emerged victorious in an epic extra-time showdown against the Sunshine Coast Lightning.

The GIANTS proved too good in the final minutes of a match filled with twists and turns at Ken Rosewall Arena.

The match was decided during extra time, but there was a delay in play and confusion after a scoreboard error in stadium had the final score in Lightning’s favour (71-70). After a review, players were called to return to the court for extra time.

The win marks a significant turning point for the GIANTS, who have been relentless in their pursuit of victory after enduring a challenging start to the season while the visitors sat at 1-3 entering tonight’s match-up.

Matisse Letherbarrow emerged as the game-changer during extra-time.

She was summoned from the bench to deliver a relentless barrage of Super Shots, ultimately spearheading the GIANTS’ comeback victory over the Lightning.

Chelsea Pitman, Jodi-Ann Ward and the GIANTS signalled their intentions early, working well to disrupt Lightning’s play from their centre pass– ferocious at the contest.

It was Lightning who opened proceedings on the scoreboard though, with a goal under the post from Cara Koenen.

Ward was a bundle of energy for the GIANTS, working overtime in defence to support the team in orange on both sides of the ball.

Both sides traded blows in the opening minutes. Yet, amidst the tit-for-tat scoring, it was the GIANTS who exuded confidence, demonstrating rapid ball movement and unyielding defensive intensity on all phases.

Jo Harten and Sophie Dwyer turned it on in the Power Five time, executing an important Super Shot each. Yet, it was Steph Fretwell’s clutch conversion that levelled the scores as the teams approached the first change.

Lightning and GIANTS were locked in a thrilling battle, trading blows to reach a deadlock at 17 all entering the first change.

The second quarter intensified in physicality as the Lightning aimed to maintain their momentum from the opening quarter. However, a pivotal turnover by Pitman allowed the away team to surge ahead, establishing a commanding five-point lead before the onset of the Power Five period.

The relentless ball speed exhibited by both teams posed a formidable challenge for the defenders, as they struggled to disrupt the flow of play. The GIANTS’ connection down the court was almost seamless– a far cry from their disappointing outing in Adelaide last weekend.

But the Lightning’s superb centre pass conversion rate and execution gave them a slight edge for the majority of the term – Koenen shot 16 from 16.

During the crucial Power Five period, spearheaded by Jo Harten, the GIANTS launched a comeback, unleashing a barrage of Super Shots to claw their way back into contention, narrowing the score line.

Pitman’s performance was stellar throughout the first half, as she dominated the court for the GIANTS, amassing an impressive tally of 57 Nissan Net Points, along with eight goal assists, 14 centre pass receives, and 22 feeds.

The GIANTS mounted a stirring comeback to claim the term, leading the Lightning 37-36 at half-time.

The GIANTS kicked off the third term with gusto, extending their lead by four points within the opening minutes. Harten asserted her dominance on the game, dazzling with a series of spectacular goals to ignite GIANT’s team’s momentum.

Following a more evenly matched second quarter, the third quarter mirrored its intensity. Both sides engaged in a relentless back-and-forth, with the GIANTS threatening to seize control while the Lightning fought tooth and nail to stay in contention.

It was Sophie Dwyer who stood up with the crucial moment of the final term, delivering a clutch Super Shot to propel the home team to a two-point advantage. However, Reilley Batcheldor swiftly countered with an impressive brace of Super Shots of her own.

In a blink of an eye, Lightning capitalised on a stray ball and executed a rapid turnover in the mid-court, allowing Batcheldor to score another Super Shot and level the scores at 71-71.

A missed opportunity by Lightning was swiftly seized upon by the GIANTS, but despite their swift transition down the court, they faltered to convert as Ash Ervin and Tara Hinchliffe turned it over for Lightning in the dying minutes, thwarting the GIANTS’ advances.

Scores were level when the final whistle blew, but an in-stadium scoreboard error led to some confusion.

The scorers bench intervened and commenced a review. Ultimately, the decision was made: the game stood as a draw. Lightning swiftly returned to the court to face the GIANTS in extra time, setting the stage for an exhilarating finish.

As the experienced Harten took a seat on the bench, Matisse Letherbarrow was swiftly thrust into the action during extra time, wasting no time in leaving her mark by sinking a crucial Super Shot to extend the lead by two points.

Sophie Dwyer mirrored the feat with a Super Shot of her own, while Koenen settled for a single. The GIANTS wasted no time asserting their dominance, as Letherbarrow netted yet another Super Shot and McDonnell orchestrated a pivotal intercept after chair-lifting Ward. In a whirlwind four minutes of extra play, the scoreboard reflects an impressive 8-1 lead, with Letherbarrow adding another to her tally.

The GIANTS won the first half of extra time 81-72.

Fretwell notched a critical Super Shot amidst a flurry of intense contacts. Riding the momentum, McDonnell secured a vital rebound off Batcheldor’s attempt, only for a held ball to return possession to the opposition, allowing Fretwell to capitalise once more.

As the clock wound down, the GIANTS maintained possession with a comfortable lead of 85-80. Letherbarrow extended the gap by sinking another crucial point, putting them ahead by six. Fretwell’s two missed Super Shots added to the suspense, culminating in a controversial finish as the GIANTS secured a hard-fought 86-80 victory.

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