West Coast Fever have let slip an opportunity to take down the ladder leaders in a thrilling 63-63 draw with the Melbourne Vixens.Fourth-placed West Coast led the competition pacesetter for three quarters before Vixens ace Caitlin Thwaites threatened to break their hearts with a Suncorp Super Shot inside the last minute.
But, with 13 seconds left, the Fever kept their heads and found Jhaniele Fowler whose 59th point ensured the competition points were shared.
The draw ensured the Fever remain in fourth place, comfortably clear of the Giants.
More importantly it announced West Coast as genuine title threats after pushing the Vixens and thumping Sunshine Coast Lightning in recent matches.
“I think we’re all feeling more confident than we were,” the Fever’s wing attack Emma Cosh said. “We know there’s some little things to work on but certainly we know we can get there
Missing goal keeper Emily Mannix to a calf injury, it was not the Vixens at their best.
They had 23 turnovers at three-quarter time and co-captain Liz Watson’s league MVP campaign lost some steam as she was kept relatively quiet by Jess Anstiss.
The Vixens were saved by Thwaites who scored 26 points, including four Super Shots, while Allie Smith’s two gains and two intercepts was a brilliant debut.
“I’m proud of the way they came back. We got ourselves into a big mess in the first half,” Vixens coach Simone McKinnis said.
“It’s a great quality to have as a team – that fight and that heart.”
There was nothing between the teams during a first quarter in which Fever shooter Fowler notched her 500th point for the season.
The Fever seemed content to allow the match-up between Alice Teague-Neeld and the Vixens’ Jo Weston to cancel out each other’s influence.
With Weston engaged elsewhere, the circle edge opened up for West Coast wing attack Emma Cosh. Cosh was the most prolific feeder for either side during the first half as West Coast gradually gained control. McKinnis switched Weston to wing defence yet still the Fever were good enough to open up an 11-goal lead.
Weston ended up at goal keeper but was unable to make an impact on Fowler.
Q1: Vixens 14 v Fever 16
Q2: Vixens 15 v Fever 20
Q3: Vixens 16 v Fever 15
Q4: Vixens 18 v Fever 12
Nissan Player of The Match – Caitlin Thwaites (Melbourne Vixens)
Vixens shooting statistics
Mwai Kumwenda: Total points – 33 G1 23/24 (96%) G2 5/9 (56%)
Caitlin Thwaites: Total points – 26 G1 18/18 (100%) G2 4/6 (67%)
Tegan Philip: Total points – 4 G1 4/4 (100%) G2 0/0 (0%)
Fever shooting statistics
Jhaniele Fowler: Total points – 59 G1 59/62 (95%) G2 0/0 (0%)
Alice Teague-Neeld: Total points – 4 G1 2/3 (67%) G2 1/5 (20%)
Firebirds starting seven: GS – Mwai Kumwenda GA – Caitlin Thwaites WA – Liz Watson C – Kate Moloney WD – Kate Eddy GD – Jo Weston GK – Kadie-Ann Dehaney
Fever starting seven: GS – Jhaniele Fowler GA – Alice Teague-Neeld WA – Emma Cosh C – Verity Charles WD – Jess Anstiss GD – Stacey Francis GK – Courtney Bruce