Lightning put Swifts to the sword
THE Sunshine Coast LIghtning has temporarily moved into the Suncorp Super Netball top four with a precious 61-51 win over the NSW Swifts at USC Stadium on Saturday.
Only percentage was keeping the reigning champion Lightning out of the top four heading into the second-last round of the regular season, with five teams still a chance of playing finals.
But the Sunshine Coast put the pressure fairly and squarely on their fellow finals aspirants, such as the Queensland Firebirds and Melbourne Vixens, by putting the Swifts to the sword and collecting the maximum eight competition points.
The Lightning's finals fate is almost certain to be decided by the last match of the 2018 regular season, when the Vixens host the Sunshine Coast at Melbourne's Hisense Arena on August 5.
But they did everything they needed to do on Saturday by putting away the Swifts in a gritty contest where the Lightning did not always hold sway.
The Lightning played like a side that needed the eight points. While the Swifts were highly competitive in patches, their finals hopes set sail a while ago, so the Sunshine Coast's desperation and class were the difference.
Lightning shooters Caitlin Bassett (42/46) and Steph Wood (19/22) were clinical for the Sunshine Coast, while Helen Housby (23/29) was the productive shooter for the combative Swifts.
The Sunshine Coast led by seven goals going into the final term after a physical third quarter when the Swifts enjoyed the best of it before the home side stamped their authority and collected their third bonus point of the day.
The Lightning collected two bonus points on the way to a 31-26 lead at half-time.
It was a scrappy and see-sawing affair as the Sunshine Coast showcased some of its best - and worst - netball, with intense defensive pressure and slick ball movement mixed with silly turnovers from wayward and indecisive passes that stopped the Lightning's hard-won momentum in its tracks.
The Lightning jumped the Swifts early, weathered a brief NSW comeback and kicked away to a 17-13 at quarter-time. The Sunshine Coast dominated the start of the second term with a 6-2 run and got out to a commanding 11-goal buffer.
But errors crept back into the game and the Swifts almost denied the Lightning a bonus point for the quarter with a late flurry that kept them in the contest.