A bruised Courtney Bruce and a sparkling Sunday Aryang cameo have launched West Coast Fever into the preliminary final and bundled the NSW Swifts out of the title race.
The Fever’s 67-62 minor semi-final triumph at Sunshine Coast’s USC Stadium kept alive the Perth outfit’s dream of a maiden premiership after a stunning fightback from nine goals down at the end of the third quarter.
West Coast star Jhaniele Fowler shot a flawless 55-from-55 in her 100th national league outing, but it was Aryang who produced the match-turning impact.
Aryang with defensive circle partner Bruce wrenched the contest out of the defending champion Swifts’ hands.
Bruce will likely wake on Monday with a black eye after having the final say in a brutal battle with the Swifts’ Sam Wallace (40-from-44).
But, playing in her first final, Aryang played with the chill of a veteran, grabbing five second-half intercepts to turn the contest on its head.
“The first half it was nervous but we have an amazing team who brought it back at the end,” Aryang said.
The Fever will meet Sunshine Coast Lightning in the preliminary final on Sunday.
The game had all the elements of a sudden death final.
High quality shooting at each end – Fowler and Wallace shot at 100 per cent accuracy throughout the first half – combined with fierce one-on-one match-ups to drive up the intensity.
Fever centre Verity Charles had the edge in her showdown with Paige Hadley and Bruce put her body on the line repeatedly in her clash with Wallace.
Bruce finished the half behind on the scoreboard and with a swollen eye after two accidental blows from the Swifts goal shooter.
It was the Swifts who first grabbed the upper hand when Wallace and Helen Housby sank a trio of Super Shots in the final throes of the second quarter.
But it didn’t last. Fever coach Stacey Marinkovich made four changes to her line-up at halftime and the team responded by erasing a nine-goal deficit to give themselves a shot at the championship.
Q1: Fever 15 v Swifts 17
Q2: Fever 14 v Swifts 19
Q3: Fever 19 v Swifts 12
Q4: Fever 19 v Swifts 14
Nissan Player of The Match – Sunday Aryang (West Coast Fever)
Fever shooting statistics
Jhaniele Fowler: Total points – 55 G1 55/55 (100%) G2 0/1 (0%)
Alice Teague-Neeld: Total points – 12 G1 8/12 (67%) G2 2/5 (40%)
Swifts shooting statistics
Sam Wallace: Total points – 46 G1 34/35 (97%) G2 6/9 (67%)
Helen Housby: Total points – 14 G1 10/14 (71%) G2 2/3 (67%)
Sophie Garbin: Total points – 2 G1 2/3 (67%) G2 0/0 (0%)
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
Swifts starting seven: GS – Sam Wallace GA – Helen Housby WA – Maddy Proud C – Paige Hadley WD – Sophie Craig GD – Maddy Turner GK – Sarah Klau