Sunshine Coast Coach Kylee Byrne says Lightning remain on the path to success after their fighting 61-60 loss to the NSW Swifts.
Lightning Captain Steph Wood and her rookie teammate Reilley Batcheldor sank five super shots to draw level with a minute remaining but Swifts rookie Sophie Fawns had a long range reply of her own to steady the defending champions.
It was a mighty second-half comeback from the two-time premiers.
Mahalia Cassidy had arguably her best game in a Sunshine Coast dress and Laura Scherian bravely gave her all after recovering from illness to line up against the Swifts.
“I’m immensely proud of the fight. We got back into it,” Byrne said.
It is a remarkable phenomenon of the league that every team had at least a sliver of a chance to reach the finals with five rounds remaining.
Lightning sat last but there was no way of knowing it.
Cassidy was at the heart of the Lightning resistance that clung to every one of the Swifts’ scoring runs in the first half.
Kadie-Ann Dehaney followed Cassidy’s example, using her telescopic arms to make the Swifts’ attack end look pokey.
After trailing all game, Lightning nudged their way in front at three-quarter time after Cassidy lunged desperately to intercept a Sarah Klau pass and flick the ball to Batcheldor to convert.
After starting the game at centre, Cassidy finished it at wing defence with three intercepts and two deflections to be a standout.
Wood switched between goal attack and wing attack and, together with Batcheldor, almost pulled off the ultimate escape.
Dehaney’s five gains troubled the Swifts attack end and Mackay product Bridey Condren made her Lightning debut.
“There’s some really exciting combinations there with Roo getting more court time now,” Byrne said.
“We just want to be better every game.
“As long as we keep building, there’s a longer-term vision with this group.”
Lightning’s next assignment is on Saturday against the Queensland Firebirds at Nissan Arena.