In front of a league record crowd of 11,871 fans at Qudos Bank Arena, GIANTS Netball were unable to hold out a fast-finishing Sunshine Coast Lightning outfit to fall 55-56 in the final regular round of Suncorp Super Netball.
The result went down to the final seconds and unfortunately the home side were left on the wrong side, confirming their third place finish and standing to host the sudden-death Minor Semi Final next Saturday 3 June (details to be confirmed by Suncorp Super Netball).
Head Coach Julie Fitzgerald was naturally disappointed the GIANTS were able to let their handy lead go so late in the game, and rued costly errors for the final result.
“We had that match in our hands and they (Lightning) called a timeout, and from there I think it was seven consecutive goals (to them). It certainly shows how quickly you can win or lose a match,” Fitzgerald said.
“They were silly mistakes that cost us – silly passes, drop balls, things you can’t afford to do in those types of matches. They’re moments you can’t train for, but we will certainly learn from it tonight.”
With the Semi Final fixture now confirmed the GIANTS will host one of the fancied teams in the competition, Fitzgerald was quick to confirm that it will be business as usual this week for her charges in preparation for the Magpies.
“I’m big about (the fact) you train as hard as you usually do coming into Finals, so this week will be no different for us,” Fitzgerald said.
“We’re fortunate that (the Semi Final) will be played at home and we can have our NSW crowd behind us – they were absolutely amazing tonight, and we’ll need their support again next week against the Magpies.”
As one would expect between two sides who have sat in the top four since Round 2, nothing could separate the GIANTS and Lightning in the opening minutes – both moving the ball with varying speeds, while working as cohesive units to apply blanket pressure in defence. What would prove to be a deciding factor was how one another used their own possession.
That factor came into play in a big way during the second quarter. After a clutch shooting performance from Captain Jo Harten sealed the lead for the GIANTS at quarter time, the home side emerged from the break with confidence. But that was quickly stymied with costly turnovers allowing Lightning to get the upper hand.
While the turnovers were few and far between, the visitors made the most of their gains and as half-time approached they took the lead – forcing the GIANTS into chase mode. While the hosts try to play a patient game to tressure possession, they found themselves with a four goal deficit with little answers how to claw it back; whatever they threw at Lightning, their opponents weathered.
However the GIANTS were able to prevent the deficit from growing any larger and, for the second consecutive quarter, Harten nailed a goal from long range to keep her side within four goals at half-time; Lightning leading 32-28.
Fitzgerald made wholesale changes to her front end by bringing on Kristina Brice to GS, moving Harten and Pettitt forward. The change proved a slow burner as the Lightning found another gear to push out their advantage to as many as six goals, until Brice stamped her influence on the game with four unanswered goals to bring the hosts back in touch.
With their confidence back the GIANTS found the equaliser with three minutes until the final break, with the next centre pass giving them back the lead. This was how it would finish once the third quarter break sounded.
With a guaranteed top two finish up for grabs, there was no doubt the final 15 minutes would be a ferocious battle – and those watching, both in the stands and at home, were not disappointed. With scores tied for the majority of the final term, it wasn’t until the final five minutes that the GIANTS found the extra gear that had been evading them.
Led by their defenders, the GIANTS began to find Brice with ease and the goal shooter rewarded them – putting up six goals within three minutes to give the hosts a healthy five goal lead which resulted in a Lightning tactical timeout.
The visitors emerged best from the short break in play with Bassett putting up four unanswered goals to get them back on equal footing. With the sting taken out of the GIANTS the Lightning went on a rampage – the clock going against the hosts.
With time running out the Lightning held out the GIANTS by a single goal to guarantee their place in the top two heading into the inaugural Finals Series.
The GIANTS will now host the Minor Semi Final after finishing third on the Suncorp Super Netball ladder, where they will meet the Collingwood Magpies Netball Club in the sudden-death final. Information, including venue and ticketing details, will be confirmed by Suncorp Super Netball following the conclusion of the West Coast Fever v Melbourne Vixens Round 14 contest tonight in Perth, WA.
MVP: Jamie-Lee Price (GIANTS)
GIANTS | Q1: 15 – Q2: 28 (13) – Q3: 41 (13) – Q4: 55 (14)
L’NING | Q1: 14 – Q2: 32 (18) – Q3: 41 (9) – Q4: 56 (15)
GIANTS | GS Susan Pettitt, GA Jo Harten (C), WA Sarah Wall, C Serena Guthrie, WD Jamie-Lee Price, GD Bec Bulley, GK Sam Poolman
L’NING | GS Caitlin Bassett, GA Stephanie Wood, WA Kelsey Browne, C Laura Scherian, WD Laura Langman, GD Karla Mostert, GK Geva Mentor (C)
GIANTS | Q2 WA Taylah Davies; Q3 GS Kristina Brice, GA Harten, WA Pettitt.
L’NING | Q2 (Timeout) GS Cara Koenen; Q2 (Timeout 2) GA Bassett.
GIANTS: 55/63 @ 87%
S Pettitt: 9/11 @ 82%
J Harten: 24/27 @ 89%
K Brice: 22/25 @ 88%
L’NING: 56/63 @ 89%
C Bassett: 39/41 @ 95%
S Wood: 17/22 @ 77%