It was an epic rematch – this time in the west of Sydney, which might have been a good sign for the visitors who were looking for something to be going a westerly way after a tough game last weekend.
The major semi-final was set to be a cracker of a match after a close finish in the final round of the regular season and it didn’t disappoint.
The Fever got off to a flyer, with an opening quarter that stunned their opponents. Shooting at 100% for the quarter, they also managed three intercepts, seven gains and four deflections for the quarter, pulling out to an eight goal lead.
However, with four minutes to go in the quarter, they looked to be in trouble, with star Goal Shooter Jhaniele Fowler sustaining a knee injury and signalling to the bench that she needed assistance.
Kaylia Stanton took the Goal Shooter bib and while it took the Fever time to settle into a different game plan with a moving shooter, but they managed to maintain their lead into quarter time.
The Giants came back all fired up after the first break, with coach Julie Fitzgerald clearly making herself heard. Stanton remained on court for the Fever and after five minutes, Fitzgerald decided to inject some speed into her defence end, bringing Kristana Manu’a on at Goal Keeper to nullify the moving circle.
Manu’a had an immediate impact, with two gains, a deflection and a rebound for the quarter. At the other end of the court, Goal Attack Jo Harten made the Fever pay, shooting 10/10 for the quarter, including some impressive long shots.
With five minutes remaining, Fowler came back to the court and though she didn’t appear 100%, missing some balls she would usually pull in, Fever managed to keep their noses in front, going into the main break leading 30-27.
The third quarter is often known as the championship quarter and it was clear that both teams wanted to stamp their authority on it.
Fever were the first to go after it, gradually pulling out to an eight goal lead by halfway through the quarter and starting to look comfortable. However, the Giants weren’t ready to admit defeat, going on a seven goal run to bring the score back within one.
Fever managed to bring it to an end and finishing the quarter going goal for goal with the home team for the final four minutes of the quarter. With the score at 45-44 going into the final break, it set up an incredible final quarter for the first semi-final of the season.
Once again the visitors were right into it at the start of the quarter, with some outstanding play making from Goal Attack Nat Medhurst setting up an ever increasing lead, which unsettled the Giants and forced them into mistakes as they tried to play their way into their second consecutive Grand Final appearance.
Again it was just a gradual pushing out of the lead rather than a big run of goals that did the trick and this time the Fever was able to maintain their composure. Fowler was particularly impressed with her assist for the quarter with a sneaky bounce pass to Medhurst to set up a goal resulting in some dance moves that delighted even the partisan Giants crowd.
Despite the desperation from the Giants and only two missed goals for the quarter, their opportunites were limited due to the defensive pressure of Courtney Bruce, Stacey Francis and Jess Anstiss, who were outstanding in shutting down their opponents.
Bruce in particular was in sublime form, picking up six gains, four intercepts, three deflections and two rebounds for the quarter. Fever finally took the game 63-57.
It was an emotional end of game from both teams – the Giants now face a preliminary final against the winner of Sunday’s Queensland derby, while the Fever were crying tears of joy as Perth hosts its first ever national league grand final.
It has been a long time coming for the west and will be an unmissable game at Perth Arena in two weeks’ time.
West Coast Fever 63 def Giants 57
(18-10, 30-27, 45-44, 63-57)
Player of the Match: Nat Medhurst (Fever)
West Coast Fever
Fowler 48/48 100%
Medhurst 9/9 100%
Stanton 6/7 86%
Pettitt 24/30 80%
Harten 33/38 87%
Report: Megan Maurice
Photos: May Bailey