Steph Wood has renewed the Sunshine Coast Lightning’s bid for a fourth straight Suncorp Super Netball grand final with a masterful local derby performance against the Queensland Firebirds.The Lightning’s 75-67 victory at USC Stadium was the side’s eighth of the season and launched them past West Coast Fever and NSW Swifts into second place on the ladder with two rounds remaining.
After a slow start, it took the injection of Wood to turn the game in the two-time champion’s favour.
And when Wood’s chance came, the 28-year-old goal attack had the impact of an angry ant at a picnic, sinking 19 goals and, just as importantly, opened up the attack end with 25 feeds to give teammate Karla Pretorius a win in her 100th game.
Pretorius finished with six gains and was amazing in her milestone game to provide the side with the possession they needed to stay with the confident Firebirds in the first half.
“It was a special win for us,” Pretorius said after helping her team lock up another finals berth. “It’s great for the confidence. We definitely know the hard work starts now.”
Romelda Aiken’s 47 goals gave the Firebirds every chance of an upset but Queensland could not turn back the Lightning once Wood, Pretorius and Laura Langman (47 feeds) cracked the whip.
With second place up for grabs, the Lightning had every reason to start with some authority.
Yet the Firebirds led by as much as nine goals in the first quarter before Wood entered the game off the bench.
The Diamonds star scattered the Firebirds defenders and used her clean hands and court craft to bring others into the game.
At the same time she shot nine-from-11 first half goals to carve the halftime deficit to five.
Lightning captain Langman sought clarification from the umpires at the break and they emerged the more disciplined side in the second half.
A contact call on Firebirds midcourter Macy Gardner and a handful of possession gains from Lightning defender Pretorius helped the Sunshine Coast edge in front.
The Firebirds were unable to withstand the Lightning’s force in the final term and the Lightning showed they’re a force to be reckoned with coming into finals.
Q1: Lightning 13 v Firebirds 20
Q2: Lightning 19 v Firebirds 17
Q3: Lightning 23 v Firebirds 15
Q4: Lightning 20 v Firebirds 15
Nissan Player of The Match – Karla Pretorius (Sunshine Coast Lightning)
Lightning shooting statistics
Peace Proscovia: Total points – 10 G1 10/11 (91%)
Cara Koenen: Total points – 41 G1 41/41 (100%))
Steph Wood: Total points – 24 G1 14/18 (79%) G2 5/6 (83%)
Firebirds shooting statistics
Romelda Aiken: Total points – 48 G1 46/51 (90%) G2 1/1 (100%)
Tippah Dwan: Total points – 16 G1 6/9 (66%) G2 5/12 (42%)
Mia Stower: Total points – 3 G1 3/3 (100%)
Lightning starting seven: GS – Peace Proscovia GA – Cara Koenen WA – Laura Scherian C – Laura Langman WD – Maddy McAuliffe GD – Karla Pretorius GK – Phumza Maweni
Firebirds starting seven: GS – Romelda Aiken GA – Tippah Dwan WA – Lara Dunkley C – Mahalia Cassidy WD – Gabi Simpson GD – Kim Jenner GK – Tara Hinchliffe