Bonus for Lightning in hard-fought win
THE Sunshine Coast fumbled a lot - but rumbled enough - to claim a bonus-point packed 60-51 win over Adelaide at USC Stadium yesterday.
The Lightning grabbed a maximum eight competition points from the victory to bolt up the Suncorp Super Netball ladder and get their title defence further back on track with their second win from five outings in 2018.
The Sunshine Coast won all four quarters but were not overly convincing in doing so as the gritty Thunderbirds and a host of Lightning mistakes combined to keep the scrappy contest close.
Caitlin Bassett (43/47) and Steph Wood (17/20) were reliable in the shooting circle for the Lightning when the ball made it that far while Jamaican goalshooter Shimona Nelson was a focal point for the Thunderbirds and finished with 30 goals.
The Lightning, with captain Geva Mentor playing her 150th national league game, had to battle hard to put away the plucky Thunderbirds, last on the ladder on zero points after not having won a quarter in their four losses to start the season.
Sports bookmaker Ladbrokes were not taking bets on the head-to-head result believing the Sunshine Coast were unbackable favourites to salute against the worst attacking team - and worst defensive side - in the competition.
Maybe the Lightning subconsciously thought it was a foregone conclusion, too, given the sloppy start to the contest when they created a host of opportunities but lacked the intensity and clinical execution to make Adelaide pay.
The Thunderbirds raced to an early 9-5 lead when the Lightning called a time-out. Whatever acting Sunshine Coast head coach Kylee Byrne said worked as the home side went on an 8-2 tear to lead 13-11 at quarter-time.
The Lightning led by three at halftime after another error-riddled term when both teams were guilty of throwing away far too much possession.
Sunshine Coast jumped out to a six-goal buffer in a fast start to the third term and took a 45-39 lead into the last change after a series of impressive long-range shots from Wood.
Thunderbirds goal attack Charlee Hodges was forced off the court in the third quarter after a heavy collision with Lightning midcourter Madeline McAuliffe.
The Lightning were able to give bench players Jacqui Russell and Cara Koenen valuable court time in the second half ahead of the Sunshine Coast's home game against the Melbourne Vixens this Saturday in what will be a much tougher test for the reigning champions.
Mentor said it was an "extremely messy game" but the Lightning would learn a lot from being able to tough out a win.
"We were able to grind out each quarter and come away with those bonus points. But definitely lots we can work on,'' she said.
"Defensively, I don't think we got enough ball which meant that the scoreline was fairly tight throughout.
"(The maximum bonus points) were very pleasing. That's what it's all about. Not only do you want to get those wins, you want to win each quarter. A full eight points for us, it's the first time this season and hopefully we are building from there.''
Mentor said her 150-game milestone was a "very special occasion".
"It is quite apt playing against the Adelaide Thunderbirds because that's where it all started for me. It's been a decade ... and I've loved very minute,'' she said.
NSW Swifts hit back after trailing 17-13 in the first quarter to beat the Magpies 64-54.