The Queensland Firebirds have marched behind youngster Tippah Dwan to upset the defending champions, the NSW Swifts.Queensland are supposedly in a rebuilding period but looked like they were ahead of schedule in their 77-64 win over the second-placed Swifts at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena.
Romelda Aiken’s experience and class helped her to 43 points but the prime movers for the win were the Firebirds’ younger brigade.
Dwan, 20, has been threatening to deliver a match-winning performance for weeks and Saturday was the day she landed it, with 26 points including eight two-goal Suncorp Super Shots and 21 feeds.
She was helped along the way by young general Mahalia Cassidy and a breakout performance from Lara Dunkley.
“It’s just confidence. Once I get one shot in I feel like the girls around me have faith in me to take those shots,” Dwan said. “With time it’s going to be an amazing thing if we all stick together.”
The win lifted the Firebirds to sixth and they are an outside chance of qualifying for the finals, although they will need other results to go their way.
Swifts coach Briony Akle commended the Firebirds but was critical of her own group after the flat performance.
“They don’t play like they’re coming second last,” she said of the Firebirds. I don’t think we went in thinking it was going to be easy.
“They’ve got some great young players but we knew as soon as they got a sniff it would be hard to rein them in. We didn’t turn up and play the Swifts way today.”‘
Before this season you would not have given Cassidy and Dunkley much hope against elite Swifts midcourters Maddy Proud and Paige Hadley.
Yet there they were, taking it to the Swifts engine room as the Firebirds pushed out to a 39-30 halft-ime lead.
Dunkley was particularly impressive in a rare start, prompting Akle to switch Hadley from centre to wing defence to curb her influence.
Akle also spared Helen Housby from the early minutes of the third quarter to freshen up the goal attack for the Super Shot period at the tail end of the term.
Housby always has impact but it was Dwan who all but put the game out of the Swifts’ reach.
Q1: Swifts 12 v Firebirds 19
Q2: Swifts 18 v Firebirds 20
Q3: Swifts 18 v Firebirds 19
Q4: Swifts 16 v Firebirds 19
Nissan Player of The Match – Tippah Dwan (Queensland Firebirds)
Swifts shooting statistics
Sam Wallace: Total points – 45 G1 41/42 (98%) G2 2/6 (33%)
Helen Housby: Total points – 17 G1 9/9 (100%) G2 4/10 (40%)
Sophie Garbin: Total points – 2 G1 2/3 (67%) G2 0/0 (0%)
Firebirds shooting statistics
Romelda Aiken: Total points – 43 G1 43/53 (81%) G2 0/1 (0%)
Tippah Dwan: Total points – 34 G1 18/22 (82%) G2 8/9 (89%)
Swifts starting seven: GS – Sam Wallace GA – Helen Housby WA – Nat Haythornthwaite C – Paige Hadley WD – Sophie Craig GD – Maddy Turner GK – Sarah Klau
Firebirds starting seven: GS – Romelda Aiken GA – Tippah Dwan WA – Lara Dunkley C – Mahalia Cassidy WD – Gabi Simpson GD – Kim Jenner GK – Tara Hinchliffe