Playing Mavericks in front of their home crowd, Lightning found themselves eight goals down inside the first 10 minutes. Many teams would have crumbled but Lightning’s mental toughness saw them re-group and fight back. Led by Olivia Murphy in mid-court and with Agbeze and Tomlin playing outstanding games in the defensive circle, Lightning scrapped for every ball. By the end of the quarter the gap had closed to five goals and Lightning were still in the game.
Alex Astle came off the bench at quarter time to strengthen the Lightning attack and the gap closed to three. Time and again Mavericks, pulled out to a five-goal lead only for Lightning to peg them back. O’Neill and Clarke piled on the defensive pressure outside the shooting circle regularly turning over crucial ball. However moments of indecision cost Lightning dear as they never quite got back on level terms. The quarter ended with Mavericks six ahead and leaving Lighting with a second half mountain to climb.
The third quarter started where the second finished. Both teams played at an amazing intensity and no one could ever settle on the ball, or establish a rhythm. A breathless quarter went Lightnings way but only by one leaving Mavericks with a five goal lead.
Mavericks came out firing in the final quarter and they quickly stretched their lead to seven but Lightning dug deep to stop the rot. The whole Lightning team kept driving forwards looking for the win and slowly but surely they ate in to the Mavericks lead. With 60 sec to go Lightning were one behind and Astle kept her nerve to convert from a centre pass and bring the scores level. Agbeze then turned over Mavericks ball to give Lighting possession with 30 sec on the clock and a chance for glory. Sadly a mistimed move saw Mavericks take possession, move down court and sink one final goal to take the game 40-39.
Lightning players and management were heartbroken but they should take pride in the best performance of their season. Playing a team with five experienced international players on the oppositions home court was never going to be easy.
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Fourth is no good enough