THE WEST COAST FEVER HAS FOUND A WAY IN TO WIN AGAINST A DEFIANT SUNSHINE COAST LIGHTNING IN A 56-55 VICTORY AT USC STADIUM.
After easing past Adelaide by 18 goals in Round 1 and then beating the Magpies by 11 last week, the Fever were pushed from start to finish by a determined Lightning outfit playing their first home game of the season.
Trailing by two in the dying minutes, the Lightning managed to snatch the lead with just 90 seconds to go, before the Fever were able to close out the match with the last two goals of the game.
It was heartbreaking for the defending premiers, who are now 0-3 for the season, while the Fever is a perfect 3-0, after a match that could easily have fallen either way.
Both sides went in with unchanged lineups, with the marquee match-up between Fever import Jhaniele Fowler and the English international defender Geva Mentor.
Jamaican national Fowler led the league in shots made with 128 goals coming into the match – four more than her nearest rival Romelda Aiken, who had played one more game than Fowler.
But it was defence that dictated much of the match, with the Fever’s Courtney Bruce (five intercepts) and Lightning’s Karla Pretorius (four intercepts) having a huge impact.
Mentor got an early win over Fowler, picking her pocket for an intercept that gave the Lightning an early 5-4 lead. Mentor then harrassed Fowler into a miss, as the Sunshine Coast pushed their lead out to 7-5.
Long passes into Fowler began to find their mark, but Mentor stopped the run again, providing a true contest in the goal circle.
The Fever seized opportunities presented by a number of missed Lightning shots to race out to a three-goal lead, but the home side fought back hard to take a 15-14 lead into the second quarter.
The defensive lockdown prompted Fever’s former Australian Diamond Nat Medhurst to seek clarification from the umpires at the first break. It was the Lightning, though, who came out firing in the second quarter – opening up a four-goal lead.
Fowler began to assert herself, however, patrolling under the hoop and quickly helping the Fever erase the deficit and lock up the scores at 23-23.
Bruce and Stacey Francis played a huge role defensively for the Fever, helping them win the quarter – although the game score was tied at 29-29 at the main break.
Bruce was everywhere for the Fever, with four intercepts by the midway mark of the third quarter, which helped her side maintain slender 39-37 lead.
The Lightning players were willing in defence as well, earning seven turnovers for the quarter. While they were unable to convert some of them into a goals, a late four-goal run gave them the bonus point for the term as well as a 44-43 lead heading into the final quarter.
Q1: Lightning 15 v 14 Fever
Q2: Lightning 14 v 15 Fever
Q3: Lightning 15 v 14 Fever
Q4: Lightning 11 v 13 Fever
Lightning shooting statistics
Caitlin Bassett 33/39
Steph Wood 22/25
Fever shooting statistics
Jhaniele Fowler 39/44
Nat Medhurst 17/21
Lightning starting seven – GS: Caitlin Bassett, GA: Steph Wood, WA: Kelsey Browne, C: Laura Scherian, WD: Madeline McAuliffe, GD: Karla Pretorius, GK: Geva Mentor
Fever starting seven – GS: Jhaniele Fowler, GA: Nat Medhurst, WA: Ingrid Colyer, C: Verity Charles, WD: Jess Anstiss, GD: Stacey Francis, GK: Courtney Bruce
Match MVP: Jhaniele Fowler (Fever)