Queensland Firebirds kept their perfect 2011 record intact with a comfortable 64-42 win over reigning premiers the Adelaide Thunderbirds, in Adelaide today.
In posting their fifth straight win, the visitors gradually built throughout the game, increasing their score with each quarter as they took control. Soundly beaten last time the pair met two weeks ago, Thunderbirds were determined it would not be a repeat performance.
The home team, with two teenagers in their line-up for the second half, did put in an improved effort today but were eventually outgunned by a more finely-tuned and experienced opposition.
The Thunderbirds sprung a major surprise in their starting line-up by slotting crack shooter Carla Borrego into the goalkeepers role. Initially, it had the desired effect with the athletic Borrego rattling her fellow Jamaican Romelda Aiken.
Borregos basketball background came in handy with the prolific 1.96m Aiken being off target early as the home side made an impressive start. At the other end, Erin Bell was making every post a winner with a polished showing under the hoop.
The Firebirds gradually ground their way to the lead but Thunderbirds did enough to stay in touch. The home team were again troubled by a high turnover rate which helped the Firebirds pull out to a 15-9 first quarter lead.
The young home team made a blockbusting start to the second stanza, scoring six unanswered goals to level the scores. The Firebirds repost was to score the next four to regain the lead which highlighted a see-sawing quarter.
Both teams made changes with Sharni Layton moving to goal defence and Georgia Beaton coming off the bench to wing defence for the home team while Clare McMeniman took over from Keirra Trompf at wing defence for the Firebirds.
The second spell proved a willing and physical contest dominated by the whistle as turnovers became a major feature.
Firebirds goal attack Natalie Medhurst, however, remained unfazed, amply demonstrating her recent top form with a strong showing in general play and accuracy in goal. She was matched by an equally impressive performance by Bell as the Thunderbirds had marginally the better of the quarter. The Firebirds still had enough in store to hold a 28-23 halftime lead.
Finding more rhythm in their attacking play, where the ball was moved with sweet timing, the Firebirds quickly shot out to a 10-goal advantage after the break. Slick on attack, the visitors also shored up their defensive tactics. Thunderbirds were forced to work overtime on attack, consistency deserting them as turnover ball again proved costly.
With more ball finding its way into Aikens hands, the Firebirds built a handy 44-35 advantage heading into the last break.
Borrego was returned to more familiar territory when taking up the shooting duties for the last five minutes but the Firebirds finished with a flourish. The score blew out in the run home, Aiken potting 40 goals for the game as the visitors continued their winning run.
FRANK UIJLENBROEK WORLDSPORTPICS