It wasn’t the ideal start to the West Coast Fever’s three-game run at RAC Arena, losing 61 – 65 to the Sunshine Coast Lightning on Saturday night.
There was plenty on the line for both sides, with the Fever looked to avoid a second consecutive loss, while the Lightning looked to close in on a top-two spot.
This sets up Sunshine Coast’s next match against the first-placed Swifts nicely, as the winner will find themselves sitting on top of the ladder. Meanwhile, the Fever still sits a game clear in the top four, but the two consecutive losses could have negative implications.
Early on, it looked like it would be an arm wrestle between the two sides, entering the second half with scores tied up 33-all.
However, a flurry of quick ball movement from the Sunshine Coast, three super shots, and costly Fever errors separated them by the third quarter’s conclusion.
Speaking post-match, West Coast Fever coach Stacey Marinkovich noted consistency and the Lightning’s ruthless attack as a reason for the loss.
“It took us a while to get our hands on ball, and for us, in moving the ball across the transverse line, we were just a little bit stagnant with our movement, which then became one dimensional,” she said.
“When we did have it firing, we had some great passages of play, variety, and a lot of options, but it’s that inconsistency when you’re playing against a team like the Lightning that they capitalise on it.”
It was Stephanie Wood who broke the game open, scoring two of the three super-shots in that fateful quarter. She finished the game with 16 goals from 18 attempts and 17 assists, distributing to Cara Koenen.
The battle between Koenen and Courtney Bruce was engaging, but ultimately, she outmuscled the Fever’s skipper to nail 43 of her 47 attempts in her 50th game. This included one of the three third-quarter super shots.
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However, Jhaniele Fowler’s performance down the other end couldn’t be ignored.
Despite Sunshine Coast defender Phumza Maweni refusing to go quietly, Fowler had a perfect game, landing all 44 of her shots.
Distributing the ball to her, was Verity Charles who had a match-high 35 feeds, and Alice Teague Neeld, who had 16 of her 19 feeds result in a goal.
At times the Fever were their own worst enemy, finishing the game with 12 unforced turnovers.
Marinkovich acknowledged that these contributed to the loss, as well as their centre pass conversions.
“They’re [turnovers] up a little bit on what they’re usually, but our long court conversion went up, and that’s something we’d been working on, then our centre pass conversion dropped,” said Marinkovich.
“It’s not changing the game plan, it’s just looking at our execution because if you do it for large parts of the game, it’s working out what takes you away from that, but also recognising that we don’t have to always go direct, hold possession and hold the ball as well.”
The Fever will adjust these areas as they take on the Magpies and Thunderbirds at home over the next fortnight with finals inch nearer.
“We need to refresh, it’s been a big first half of the year in the way that we’ve been playing, and you need to be as mentally fresh as physically,” she said.
“Being at home can get us the opportunity to balance our week out and see what we can do with that.”
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