The Queensland Firebirds’ late surge claimed another scalp as they finished the 2020 season with a thrilling 65-63 win against the Collingwood Magpies at Nissan Arena.
It has been a brutal campaign for the Firebirds, who have lost star Gretel Bueta to maternity leave and last week withstood a barrage of criticism for leaving Jemma Mi Mi on the bench in the competition’s Indigenous Round.
Saturday’s come-from-behind win against the fighting Magpies was the Firebirds’ fourth victory from their last five outings and showed there is legitimate promise in the young group.
“We’re peaking for a finals that we’re not in,” Firebirds captain Gabi Simpson joked.
“It would be great to have a few more weeks to continue to build but the journey that we’ve been on, the growth that we’ve had, this group is just so excited to grow and support each other in that.”
The result placed the Queenslanders just outside the top four, an impressive outcome for a team that struggled for belief and confidence at the start of the campaign.
The Firebirds fought back from six points down early in the fourth quarter. Defenders Tara Hinchliffe and Kim Jenner were responsible for the turnaround, while shooter Romelda Aiken’s 47 points from 52 attempts took her past 7000 career goals in the national league.
Collingwood led for most of the game but were unable to send retiring former Diamond Madi Browne out with a win.
Shimona Nelson’s 42 points kept her side in the hunt and there was much to like about young defenders Mel Bragg and Matilda Garrett.
“The players are really down but I was proud of the way we finished today,” coach Rob Wright said.
“We lost about 600-games experience when we lost Nat Medhurst (to maternity leave) and Ash Brazill and the Browne sisters (to injuries).
“It was always going to be tough but we’ve seen some really exciting positives.”
Collingwood is in the middle of a rebuilding program but it was one of their old stagers, Geva Mentor, who was their prime mover in the first half.
The 36-year-old pulled down two rebounds and was responsible for four second-quarter gains which helped the Magpies to a slim advantage at halftime.
Equally impressive was Mentor’s teammate Bragg who had the better of her duel with Firebirds wing attack Mi Mi.
Q1: Magpies 18 v Firebirds 19
Q2: Magpies 17 v Firebirds 15
Q3: Magpies 16 v Firebirds 13
Q4: Magpies 12 v Firebirds 18
Nissan Player of The Match – Gabi Simpson (Firebirds)
Magpies shooting statistics
Shimona Nelson: Total points 42 – G1 42/43 (98%) G2 0/0 (0%)
Gabby Sinclair: Total points 21 – G1 9/12 (75%) G2 6/10 (60%)
Firebirds shooting statistics
Romelda Aiken: Total points – 48 G1 46/51 (90%) G2 1/1 (100%)
Tippah Dwan: Total points – 17 G1 11/14 (79%) G2 3/5 (60%)
Collingwood starting seven: GS – Shimona Nelson GA – Gabby Sinclair WA – Molly Jovic C – Tyler Orr WD – Mel Bragg GD – Jodi-Ann Ward GK – Geva Mentor
Firebirds starting seven: GS – Romelda Aiken GA – Tippah Dwan WA – Lara Dunkley C – Mahalia Cassidy WD – Gabi Simpson GD – Kim Jenner GK – Tara Hinchliffe