The Melbourne Vixens have taken the provisional top spot on the Super Netball ladder after overcoming the Queensland Firebirds 66-64 at John Cain Arena.
- The Vixens are provisionally ahead of the Fever, who play on Sunday
- Mwai Kumwenda has been superb for the Vixens with 51 goals
- The Thunderbirds claimed a 51-44 triumph over the Lightning
In Saturday’s final game, the Adelaide Thunderbirds lost five games and kept their final hopes alive by beating the Lightning 51-44 at the Sunshine Coast.
The Vixens, after a derby loss to the Collingwood Magpies, trailed 36-32 at half-time on Saturday and looked frustrated with the stifling all-court defense of the third-ranked Firebirds.
But the home side rallied after the break, closing the gap to one point three quarters from time before Mwai Kumwenda led a 5-0 push in the final minutes to drag the Vixens across the line.
The victory put the Vixens at the top of the ladder, at least until Sunday afternoon, when West Coast Fever have the chance to reclaim the top position when they face the Magpies.
“It was hard work playing against these defenders,” said Kumwenda, who overcame a shaky start to finish with 51 goals from 55 attempts.
“In this competition, every team is really tough.
“I’m proud of the girls and the way they played today.”
An 8-1 run in the first quarter saw the Firebirds, paced by the creativity of Lara Dunkley up front on the wings and the quick hands of Gabi Simpson on defense, set the tone early on.
Dunkley’s connection to shooter Donnell Wallam continued to cause problems for the Vixens.
Vixens interim coach Di Honey moved co-captain Kate Moloney out of the middle and onto the crawling Dunkley as the Firebirds’ lead – which had stretched to eight points – threatened to explode.
Kumwenda stemmed some of the bleeding late in the second quarter before firing on all cylinders in the third quarter, which the Firebirds got off to a bad start.
The Firebirds took too many penalties, which helped the Vixens as they mounted their fightback.
Hannah Mundy was injected off the bench and into the center where she got the better of Firebirds skipper Kim Ravaillion as the game wore on, while the visitors gradually had no answer for Kumwenda.
Thunderbirds Down Lightning
The visiting Thunderbirds got the job done at USC Stadium with outstanding defense paired with accurate shooting, connecting 92% to the Lightning’s 62% off color.
The brilliant Shamera Sterling led the defensive charge, recording seven rebounds, five deflections and three steals, giving the Lightning shooters nightmares to match her athleticism and anticipation.
“It’s good to have interceptions when they’re capitalized [on] by your shooters,” Sterling said after the Thunderbirds moved the Lightning to fifth in the standings.
“We came here with the mindset that we wanted to win and take some of that pressure off the ladder.
“For now, it’s just a tough task to get into the top four.”
With Sterling starring, the visitors took a 13-10 lead into the first break as the Lightning ran dry for the Lightning, who went scoreless for more than six minutes either side of the quarter.
Steph Wood was temperamental all night and Cara Koenen looked rusty as she returned to action after missing last week’s crushing loss to the Giants with COVID-19.
With Tayla Williams having influence after being injected from the bench in the center of Adelaide, the buffer exploded to nine goals at the start of the third quarter.
Laura Scherian was moved to midfield and Annie Miller promoted to wing attack, the changes helping Sunshine Coast rally in earnest twice in the second half.
With the Thunderbirds prone to penalties and turnovers, the Lightning cut the deficit to three goals before Adelaide responded and extended their lead to 39-31 on the final substitution.
The home side mounted one more charge in the fourth, but their poor shooting came back to haunt them and a 5-0 streak from Thunderbirds goal shooter Lenize Potgieter in the final three minutes put the Lightning on the line. away for good.
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