It was hard luck for the Thunderbirds, who contributed significantly to a thrilling contest, but losing the vital clash has almost certainly killed off their hopes of making the top four.
The defensive efforts of both teams dominated the early exchanges where simple errors from both camps highlighted the opening exchanges. It was the visitors who settled better, captain Natalie von Bertouch and defender Sharni Layton snapping up vital intercepts to help push the Thunderbirds out to an early advantage.
The visitors continued to dominate the first stanza, Erin Bell and Emily Beaton looking to set up athletic shooter Carla Borrego under the hoop with a high degree of success.
Defender Geva Mentor did her bit by picking up a string of intercept and rebound ball while McMahon's understudy Tegan Caldwell also played her part with nine goals from 10 attempts but the Vixens were guilty of wasting too much possession. It was the Thunderbirds, leading by as much as five at one stage, who deservedly took a 14-11 lead into the first break.
A rejigged midcourt which included Chelsey Tregear taking up the wing attack's bib, from the bench, and Madison Browne moving from the wing to centre, paid immediate dividends for the Vixens through court flow.
Stepping up their intensity levels, the home team produced more speed on attack with Caldwell continuing to impress with her positioning, athleticism and accuracy under the hoop. Fellow shooter Kate Beveridge also became more involved, potting her share of shots as the Vixens chipped back the deficit. An exciting second half was ensured when the Vixens took the lead for the first time with two minutes of the half remaining when they went to the main interval with a 28-27 lead.
Scoring the first three goals on the resumption, the Vixens looked set to take off with the game on the back of a continued impressive outing from Caldwell. However, momentum swung back and forth during an absorbing third stanza.
Von Bertouch led from the front with a strong effort through the midcourt while Beaton and Bell set up Jamaican import Borrego with pin-point feeding as the visitors levelled the scores midway through the quarter.
It was the home team who broke free in the tight tussle in the closing minutes of the stanza, gaining a key advantage as Caldwell and Beveridge delivered on the back of Thunderbirds' lapses to take a 43-38 lead into the last break.
That did not deter the young Thunderbirds team, who exploded back into life, retrieving the situation to get the scores back on even terms within five minutes. Momentum swings continued to feature in the thrilling run home as the teams went goal-for-goal. In the end a vital intercept from the hard-working Mentor delivered the knockout blow to set up a winning buffer for the fast-finishing Vixens.
| || |
|Goals / Attempts||55 / 63 (87.3 %)||53 / 60 (88.3 %)|
|C||Natalie von Bertouch||0/0||10||0||0||3||0||13||2|
Fourth is no good enough