Lightning success sets up winner-takes-all clash
THE Sunshine Coast shot to the top of the Suncorp Super Netball ladder and set-up a high stakes pre-finals showdown with a convincing 63-49 victory over the NSW Swifts at USC Stadium Saturday night.
The Lightning is likely to drop to second-place with the Melbourne Vixens red-hot favourites to beat the last-placed Adelaide Sunday.
The Sunshine Coast will play the third-placed GWS at Homebush this Saturday in the final round of the regular season which amounts to showdown for a top-two position and a double chance in the finals.
The loser of the tantalising round 14 clash would host a sudden-death semi-final.
The Lightning warmed-up for the Giants with an initially clunky but ultimately clinical performance against the plucky Swifts.
The Sunshine Coast stamped their authority on the contest in the second quarter when they bolted to a 10-goal lead early in the term with captain Geva Mentor leading the way for the home side by setting the suffocating tone at the defensive end of the floor.
The Lightning took a 33-26 buffer into the main break when Mentor had four intercepts and six deflections to her name. She had seven intercepts and 10 deflections at full-time.
The Swifts kept coming at the Sunshine Coast but the youngest team in Suncorp Super Netball were always kept at an arm's length by the Lightning which extended its lead at every break.
The Lightning led 15-12 at quarter-time after a slightly sluggish and scrappy start, seven at halftime and nine goals at three-quarter time.
Diamonds squad member Steph Wood was replaced by Cara Koenen in the third term and the Lightning did not skip a beat as the Sunshine Coast went on to claim their 10th win from 13 starts in their inaugural season.
Caitlin Bassett finished with 49 goals from 52 attempts, while Wood (9/11) and Koenen (5/6) were valuable foils in the Lightning's last home game for the regular season.
Sam Wallace had 39 goals for the Swifts, while Amy Sommerville added 10 goals for the visitors.
Mentor said it was a solid all-round effort from the Lightning with plenty of room for improvement ahead of the match-up with the Giants.
"Everyone did a good job tonight. It was real team defence...it's that pressure we are able to build as a team," she said.
"But I thought we were probably a little bit wasteful in attack.
"One more round game to go and it's almost finals intensity so we'll be looking to put out a more polished performance.
"The Giants will be coming off a loss as well so they've got a lot to prove (but) everything is still in our hands."