West Coast Fever have won another heart-stopper against the Sunshine Coast Lightning, emerging victorious by a single goal at HBF Stadium tonight.
Head Coach Stacey Marinkovich said her side relished the challenge.
“It was really no different to the last time we played,” Marinkovich said.
“We were slow to get out of the blocks and I think it showed that if we hung in there, not playing our style, when we actually kick it into gear we can really put our foot down.
“I think we’ve still got a few games to go to seal finals, but I think if you can play in that sort of environment, it shows we’ve got a really good fortress here and to be able to do that away and back it up again here, it wasn’t just a one off.”
The Lightning burst out of the blocks in the first quarter, opening up a three-goal lead in the blink of an eye with Stephanie Wood and Caitlin Bassett profiting from some uncharacteristic Fever errors.
However, some strong defensive work from Jess Anstiss and Stacey Francis helped stop the flow of goals, while Nat Medhurst used her body as a battering ram and helped get Fever back in the match.
After a purple patch for Fever halfway through the quarter, the Lightning’s defence proved too difficult to break, as they headed into the quarter time break with a 18-14 lead.
Medhurst continued to light up the match in the second quarter, with her dynamic running and pin-point passing helping the Fever reel in the Lightning’s lead.
Fever’s pressure lifted to a new level throughout the quarter, getting back to their much-feared full court defence as the match turned into a fiery, physical encounter.
Anstiss continued to put her body on the line, flying into a back and emerging with the ball to set up another Fowler goal and bringing the deficit back to a single goal.
However, a quick time-out from Lightning Coach Noelene Tarua helped the visitors to regroup after the Fever’s onslaught, taking a slim 32-30 lead into the main break.
Marinkovich turned to her bench in the third stanza, with Shannon Eagland slotting into Wing Defence, Anstiss moving into Centre and Verity Charles to Wing Attack.
Fever continued to carry the momentum from the second quarter straight into the third, drawing level and eventually hitting the lead after some brilliant defensive work from Courtney Bruce and Stacey Francis.
The slick ball movement of the Lightning evaporated in the third quarter, as Fever pressured and harassed the visitors into mistake after mistake, while Charles relished her new role in Wing Attack.
Her gut running and defensive play, in conjunction with Medhurst and Fowler proving a handful in the shooting circle, helped Fever to a two-goal lead at three quarter time.
A sloppy start to the fourth quarter saw the Lightning score four quick goals to take back the lead, however, a Francis rebound created a Fowler goal, scoring from the next centre pass to even the game at 49 all.
An intercept from Courtney Bruce and a gutsy long-range pass from Medhurst to Fowler saw the Fever hit the lead by a goal late in the quarter with lead changing in a see-sawing final term.
With the game in the balance, Charles emerged with the ball and promptly fed into Fowler, who was impossible to defend in the shooting circle.
Buyoed by a HBF Stadium record crowd of 3466, Fever continued to hold strong, despite the continued attacks from the Lightning.
However, another tremendous intercept, this time from Eagland, lead to another Fowler goal to ice the game, and come away with another one-goal victory over the Lightning to hold their place on top of the ladder.
West Coast Fever would like to thank our Indigenous Round Partner Rio Tinto for its support.
Jhaniele Fowler 50/56 (89%)
Nat Medhurst 9/12 (75%)
3,466 at HBF Stadium