West Coast Fever have not had a lot of luck at Sydney’s QuayCentre in recent years and it looked like things were heading that way again, with the NSW Swifts off to a flyer in their Round 11 encounter.
The ladders leaders got off to a slow start, with scrappy play down court and struggling to find their prodigious shooter, Jhaniele Fowler.
The Swifts were able to capitalise due to fast moving play down court and their own shooters firing, shooting 20 goals from 20 attempts for the quarter.
Sam Wallace was in phenomenal form, positioning herself perfectly to snatch feeds out of the air above the arms of Diamonds Goal Keeper Courtney Bruce as the Swifts went to the first break 20-17.
The second quarter looked like it would be when Fever put the foot down, but they were unable to push on when the Swifts shooters began to falter on the shot.
Despite numerous deflections, gains and intercepts by the defensive trio of Bruce, Stacey Francis and Jess Anstiss, the Fever struggled to move the ball down court and the Swifts, through the defence of Sarah Klau and Maddy Turner, were able to win enough ball to extend their lead to four goals, going into half-time leading 38-34.
Both teams looked energised coming back out to warm up for the second half. Buoyed by their unexpected lead, the Swifts were full of enthusiasm but were starved of shooting opportunities by a determined Fever.
Despite creating less turnover ball than the previous quarter, Fever cherished every ball that came their way and began to find Fowler with ease. The mid-court pairing of Verity Charles and Ingrid Colyer stepped up and more evenly shared the feeding load with Goal Attack Nat Medhurst, creating more opportunities for Medhurst to weave her magic in the goal circle and set Fowler up for pulling in the high balls.
The rampaging quarter sent Fever into the lead, winning the quarter 20-13 and going into the final break with a three goal lead.
Surprisingly, Swifts made no changes to start the final quarter, however it was telling that all three bench players dashed off to warm up as soon as the first whistle went – clearly coach Briony Akle had plans to get them out there if the on court seven weren’t able to execute her plan.
Four minutes into the quarter, with Fever extending their lead further, that was exactly what happened, with Maddy Proud (Centre), Kate Eddy (Wing Defence) and Sam Wallace (Goal Shooter) called to the bench, sending Sophie Garbin into the circle, captain Abbey McCulloch into Wing Defence and Natalie Haythornthwaite making her Super Netball debut in Wing Attack, with Paige Hadley moving into Centre.
However it was too late to stop the team from the west making their run home. Charles relished the space given to her by Hadley, dominating the feeds and goal assists, as well as pulling in an intercept, a gain and two deflections – her pressure over Hadley’s centre passes was particularly notable. The Fever took the quarter by three and the game 74-68.
It wasn’t the game that either team had hoped – the Swifts have now set themselves an almost impossible task to make finals, sitting 12 points behind the fourth placed Firebirds, with no home games remaining. Fortunately for them, their final three games are also against teams outside the top four, but three weeks on the road and away from their parochial fans is no easy task.
The Fever, on the other hand, would have been hoping for a bigger win to boost their confidence going into their tough three clashes with the other top four teams before finals. Their next two matches are at home, where they are yet to be beaten in 2018, however they are against the only two opponents they have lost to this season, the Queensland Firebirds and the Melbourne Vixens, who will be pushing for that top of the ladder position.
West Coast Fever 74 def NSW Swifts 68
(17-20, 34-38, 54-51, 74-68)
Player of the Match: Jhaniele Fowler (West Coast Fever)
West Coast Fever
Fowler 61/65 94%
Medhurst 13/15 87%
Wallace 35/40 88%
Housby 23/26 88%
Garbin 10/12 83%
Report: Megan Maurice
Photos: May Bailey