Lightning edge Firebirds to stay in hunt for title
NETBALL: Sunshine Coast Lightning's campaign for back-to-back titles continues after a thrilling one-goal win over their Queensland rivals in Brisbane on Sunday.
In a game that lived up to the hype, the Coast side held off a ferocious comeback from the fast-finishing Firebirds outfit to advance to the preliminary final, where they will come up against last year's grand final opponents, the Giants.
It was goal for goal early on, with the Lightning leading 16-15 lead at the first break.
The Coast side began to find its connections in the second term, taking a four-goal lead into the main break.
They then looked every part the championship-winning team they are in the third quarter and led by eight goals late in the period. But the Firebirds refused to go down easily, drawing level with less than six minutes left in the game.
A clutch long-range shot from goal attack Steph Wood in the final minute put the Lightning two goals up, sealing the Coast side's spot in the second week of finals.
Coast captain Geva Mentor said despite the Lightning still searching for their "perfect game", it was a fantastic win to have heading deeper into finals.
"I wouldn't say it's the most polished performance for us," she said.
"It was definitely a sturdy one and a gritty one and that's what finals are about sometimes."
"It's not going to be pretty, it's going to be about using your smarts and just grinding out those wins and making sure that when the final whistle goes you're on the right side of that scoreboard."
For the reigning premiers Caitlin Bassett shot 37 from 39 attempts, while Wood made 20 from 26.
Kelsey Browne was named MVP and had a game-high 21 assists, that punished the home side at many key moments throughout the game.
Coach Noeline Taurua said each player played their role well and praised the way the team worked as a unit.
"Hard to be able to pick one person out and that's probably the most pleasing for us," she said. "Everyone did what they had to and I was really happy with it."
The Lightning will now meet the Giants in Sydney on Sunday, August 19 to play for a spot in the grand final.