Sam Wallace drills a basket.
Sam Wallace drills a basket.

‘Lucky’ Swifts survive winless T-Birds fight

NSW Swifts secured the result but not without a scare as the Adelaide Thunderbirds fought to the death at Quaycentre in Sydney.

The Swifts finished with a two-goal 51-49 win in a thrilling match that was in the balance until the final minutes.

Cool England shooter Helen Housby sunk the Swifts' final two goals in the last minute of the game to open up an advantage after the Thunderbirds had levelled the scores at 48 with two minutes to play.

Though NSW had come into the game wanting the win plus all the bonus points, the near miss on getting the result would have them relieved with just the two bonus points for winning the first two quarters.

Adelaide remain winless at the bottom of the table, but have their first points of the season with the final two quarter wins.

Coach Briony Akle was simply happy to see her side get over the line and can now have a rest with the bye.

"Very relieved, but obviously disappointed with how we played," she said.

"Full credit, you only play as good as your opposition I think. They brought it to us.

 

Sam Wallace wins possession before scoring.
Sam Wallace wins possession before scoring.

"We needed to be better, obviously we won it, but the bye has come at a very good time for us."

It was an intense match as Adelaide fought to the final whistle and contested every ball. It made for a scrappy affair as turnover hurt both teams, but a thrilling finish for the fans.

The closer the game became the harder players went, bumping into each other and hitting the ground in the fight for possession.

The Swifts looked like they might run away with it only minutes into the match when they opened up a six-goal lead after a seven goal run from their first scoring play. But a lapse in concentration, during which they turned over cheap ball, allowed the Thunderbirds back in and a seven-in-a-row run cut back the lead to have it level at nine midway through the quarter.

From there it was end to end for much of the match, NSW getting out to leads of up to seven goals only to have Adelaide reel them back in.

Akle felt her team looked tired after six tough rounds to start the season and Housby having played Commonwealth Games in the lead in.

"They looked exhausted to be honest," Akle said.

"Someone like Helen hasn't had a break since Comm Games so I thought she looked exhausted and I think it does come down to the fact they need a break.

"We were very, very lucky to get away with that."

The battle between Swifts shooter Sam Wallace and Thunderbirds keeper Kate Shimmin (three intercepts) for the first three quarters highlighted the intensity of the match.

Shimmin blocked a shot of Wallace's in the first quarter and the two went toe to toe throughout the match as the Adelaide defender pushed hard to get an advantage.

Wallace was shooting below 80 per cent early in the match, but she patiently worked her way above that mark and finished the game with 88 per cent accuracy (30/34).

She said it was a mental and physical battle, but one she enjoyed.

"I was really nervous at the start, I don't know why I was nervous but I think the pressure was on us to get eight points, but I'm glad for the win," Wallace said.

"We were talking smack in the circle. We were talking stupidness.

"She would push, she would swear and I'd just laugh. I respect her as a player.

"She was like,' I'm trying to get in your head' and I was like, 'you're not getting in my head'.

 

Shimona Nelson wins a strong challenge.
Shimona Nelson wins a strong challenge.

"I love playing against her."

There is plenty to work on for the Swifts going into the second half of the season with their passing missing the mark a number of times, gifting the Thunderbirds possession. It was an off day in the circle too, Wallace the only shooter to have accuracy above 80 per cent.

"It looked like we don't do a lot of passing at training but we actually do, we spend a lot of time on it," Akle said.

"This was a big game with a lot of pressure in a different way, compared to last week.

"They knew that T-Birds hadn't won a point and everyone's talking about it. I think that's where the young comes in.

"If we had a few more older heads and can just play their own game they'd be OK. But I think the pressure got to them.

"They knew they wanted to walk away with full points and they made it hard for us."

Akle highlighted the defensive effort from the Swifts as one bright area. Sarah Klau was outstanding, taking five intercepts for the match. While Shimmin worked tirelessly for Adelaide, finishing with three intercepts herself.