Sunshine Coast Lightning’s big three made a defining statement in their side’s 56-50 win against the Adelaide Thunderbirds.
The performances of internationals Karla Pretorius, Laura Langman and Steph Wood suggested the trio is not yet ready to give up on the club’s pursuit of a fourth consecutive grand final appearance.
Pretorius, with her lightning hands and ability to create doubt in opponents was outstanding all game while Langman and Wood lifted in the second half to steady the Lightning after two consecutive losses.
Pretorius’ experience and ruthlessness shut down exciting young Thunderbirds goaler Georgie Horjus at Brisbane’s Nissan Arena.
“She’s a great young player. Those youngsters play with a lot of freedom so I felt I needed to step up,” Pretorius said.
The result ensured Sunshine Coast remained in touch with the Melbourne Vixens and NSW Swifts.
The Lightning’s stars needed to perform to hold off the Thunderbirds side powered by Shamera Sterling. Sterling plucked five intercepts and nine gains before she hobbled off late in the final term with an ankle injury.
Wood’s 17 goals at 80 percent was crucial while the Thunderbirds’ Lenize Potgieter’s 27 goals was not a big enough haul for her side.
The subplot across the opening half was the dynamism of Thunderbirds defender Sterling and Lightning’s Pretorius.
Two-time premiership defender Pretorius’ anticipation and appetite for the hunt caused havoc at the Thunderbirds’ attack end.
And Sterling’s four first-half intercepts kept the Thunderbirds in the game and injected second thoughts into the minds of the Lightning’s feeders.
The Thunderbirds were the first to flinch, benching wing attack Chelsea Pitman, defender Layla Guscoth and Horjus to mix up their approach late in the first half.
It was a particularly tough call on Pitman given she had been one of the most prolific feeders on the court.
The trio returned for a tight third quarter but, with Pretorius, centre Langman and goal attack Wood on top of their direct opponents, the Lightning extended its lead to nine goals at times during the term.
Q1: Thunderbirds 13 v Lightning 15
Q2: Thunderbirds 11 v Lightning 14
Q3: Thunderbirds 9 v Lightning 9
Q4: Thunderbirds 17 v Lightning 18
Nissan Player of The Match – Karla Pretorius (Sunshine Coast Lighning)
Thunderbirds shooting statistics
Sasha Glasgow: Total points – 2 G2 1/1 (100%)
Georgie Horjus: Total points – 19 G1 15/21 (71%) G2 2/3 (67%)
Lenize Potgieter: Total points – 29 G1 25/27 (93%) G2 2/2 (100%)
Lightning shooting statistics
Cara Koenen: Total points – 23 G1 23/28 (82%)
Peace Prosicova: Total points – 15 G1 15/15 (100%)
Steph Wood: Total points – 18 G1 16/20 (80%) G2 1/3 (33%)
Thunderbirds starting seven: GS – Lenize Potgieter GA – Georgie Horjus WA – Chelsea Pitman C – Hannah Petty WD – Maisie Nankivell GD – Layla Guscoth GK – Shamera Sterling
Lightning starting seven: GS – Cara Koenen GA – Steph Wood WA – Laura Scherian C – Laura Langman WD – Maddy McAuliffe GD – Karla Pretorius GK – Phumza Maweni