Storm 55 – 60 Thunder
Storm ended the season with a superb performance in a thrilling game at the Sports Park Arena, but it was Manchester Thunder who snatched the victory which took them into the Superleague Play-Offs.
It had been Storm, though, who made the stronger start. Built on a platform of solid defence amidst a highly-competitive first quarter, Storm pulled away into a commanding lead after a tight opening few minutes. With two minutes left of Q1 they lead 13-6, but Thunder’s momentum – which really asserted itself in Q2 – begun before the first break as they reduced the deficit to four.
Hodge-England extended that to five early in the second period but Thunder rediscovered their clinical edge whilst Storm lost theirs, and the visitors led by six at half-time.
The game continued to ebb and flow after the break, and it was Storm’s turn to fight back with a vengeance. Thunder, however, stood firm initially kept pace with Storm. They led 37-32 within three minutes of the restart but steadily Storm wrested back control.
Rhea Dixon brought Storm level and then netted the go-ahead goal towards the end of Q3. They maintained a single-goal advantage at the final break – as Katy Hughes made a superb interception, which perhaps brought the biggest cheer of the entire evening – but one decisive final swing of momentum took the game in Thunder’s favour.
The visitors’ composure in the face of Storm’s energy and a sold-out crowd who were living every pass allowed them to hold the hosts at bay. The result still hung in the balance going into the final minute but Thunder had just too much and now progress to next weekend’s semi-finals.
Storm, though, could be proud of a fine season, laden with promise of even better to come.