The Adelaide Thunderbirds pulled out all the stops to shake off the Mainland Tactix to claim the final trans-Tasman clash of Round 8, 63-51, in Christchurch tonight.
The Thunderbirds saw a lead of 12 deep in the second quarter fritter away to three early in the final spell, as the home side rallied.
But the composure of Erin Bell and the mettle of Renae Hallinan in the final throes made sure the Thunderbirds notched up their third win of the season.
Pressure applied by wing defence Hallinan guaranteed the Thunderbirds had three on the board before the Tactix opened their account at the start of the match, and soon had the difference at five goals.
Bell, too, was in sparkling form from the outset, supporting Carla Borrego at goal attack with both precision shooting and feeding.
But the Tactix were determined it wouldn’t all be one-way traffic, and for much of the quarter, they contested everything – with wing defence Hayley Saunders making Thunderbirds wing attack Emily Beaton toil hard.
But when the gap stretched out to seven, the Tactix called on extra height in their attack, bringing on Erikana Pedersen, sidelined in recent weeks with concussion, at wing attack.
But even that did little to slow down the Thunderbirds’ onslaught; the visitors leading 18-9 at the end of the opening quarter.
It was a different Tactix who returned to the court, scoring four goals in a row. With goal shoot Mwai Kumwenda smothered by the Thunderbirds defence, it was up to goal attack Bailey Mes to step up her game.
Even though she’d landed awkwardly during the pre-game warm-up, she showed no sign of discomfort on court – answering that call in the opening minutes of the second spell with a series of scorching shots.
But just as quickly as the home side lifted their performance, they would let the Thunderbirds back into the game with circle defenders Eboni Beckford-Chambers and Amy Steel forcing them into costly errors under pressure.
Nevertheless, a 14-all quarter showed a much-improved effort from the Tactix, but the Thunderbirds maintained their distance at 32-23.
For much of the third quarter, both sides were responsible for basic handling errors that hindered either from taking control.
But the Tactix sparked a resurgence in the final five minutes, with goal keeper Jess Moulds working tirelessly to rattle Borrego, and at the other end, Mes had assumed the main shooter’s role with finesse.
Six successive goals right up to the end-of-quarter whistle put the Tactix within striking distance at 43-39.
The Thunderbirds began the final quarter with a new pair of legs at centre in Maddie Proud, and their passing immediately took on a new intensity.
Young Tactix centre Chloe Williamson also came on, with Pedersen nursing a leg injury.
Hallinan continued to lead the Thunderbirds defence by gritty example and Borrego bounced back – even after she rebounded off the floor – to ensure the visitors convincingly owned the final 15 minutes.
MVP: Carla Borrego (Thunderbirds)
photos Janos Schmidt