Adelaide thunders home against struggling Firebirds

IT was a hard and fast start for the Queensland Firebirds in their final home game of 2019, but it was unfortunately a mostly forgettable match to say goodbye to upcoming retirees, Laura Clemesha and Caitlyn Nevins. The Adelaide Thunderbirds were far too good on the day, winning three bonus points against the struggling Firebirds and poking holes in their connections across the court on their way to a 71-59 victory.

The old-school connection between Gretel Tippett and Romelda Aiken was firing well in the first, finding plenty of ball and combining for 16 goals from 17 attempts in the first to generate some excitement for the home crowd. However it did not last long with the likes of Shamera Sterling putting on a show in defence, collecting two intercepts in the first quarter alone to propel plenty of ball back down court to Sasha Glasgow and Maria Folau in attack. It took some stellar work from captain, Gabi Simpson to get the Firebirds over the line in the first quarter, applying phenomenal pressure on Chelsea Pitman early to head into the second quarter up by one goal. It was the Firebirds’ only competition point for the day however, with the Thunderbirds holding their ground for the rest of the match and shooting 38 goals to 29 in the second half to run away with an impressive win.

The second quarter saw the Thunderbirds kick into gear, shooting nine of their 18 goals from range to showcase their ability to turn and shoot as well as building confidence as they headed into the second half up by three goals. For the Firebirds, the turning point was their penalty count having only sat up by five in the first before collecting a whopping 17 contact calls in the second. With Nevins having a hard time penetrating the goal circle only managing eight assists thanks to the defensive efforts of both Shadine Van Der Merwe and Maisie Nankivell, coach Roselee Jencke threw the bibs around moving Jemma MiMi into wing attack bib while young gun Macy Gardner took the court in centre in the hope to spur the home side into action. The 18 goal to 14 second term ultimately set up the beginning of the end for the Firebirds, with the Thunderbirds well and truly controlling every aspect of the contest.

Half time saw Kim Jenner head to the bench with Tara Hinchliffe returning to the court after a few weeks off with injury, but the switch was to no avail as the Thunderbirds continued to fire on all cylinders, applying great pressure down court and shooting goals with both accuracy and volume. While the Firebirds maintained accuracy once more, only dropping one shot for the quarter, it was the lack of ball coming into the circle that lost them the term with the percentage of goals converted from centre passes dropping with every quarter. While Simpson and Clemesha worked tirelessly to provide ball back up to attack, the lack of connection through the midcourt gave the Thunderbirds plenty of time and space to force turnovers. Simpson was impressive in wing defence with six gains and three intercepts, leading from the front to spur the defensive unit into action.

While the Firebirds regained some composure in the third despite still being down by five goals at three quarter time, a win was still in sight if they played their cards right. However it was easier said than done with the Thunderbirds unleashing a phenomenal 20 goal quarter to run home for a third win of the season. While the Firebirds shared the load at the post better in the final term, it was the phenomenal effort of Glasgow at the post with 15 goals at 100 per cent accuracy to not only outshoot the Firebirds’ final quarter alone but also set up a massive win that did not reflect the closeness of the contest prior to the final quarter. Both sides stuck by their connections in goals with no changes made throughout the match. For the losing side, Aiken (38 from 39 at 97 per cent) and Tippett (21 from 25 at 84 per cent, 22 goal assists) were back up to their usual tricks but were unable to receive easy ball into the circle thanks to the defensive efforts of the Thunderbirds. Glasgow (36 from 37 at 97 per cent) and Folau (35 from 38 at 92 per cent) shared the load well in a moving circle for the opposition, with plenty of ball finding its way into attack. Pitman was impressive around the circle with 28 assists from 31 feeds despite all efforts of Simpson while Hannah Petty managed 18 assists and two gains in just over half a game in centre. It was an exceptional full court effort from the Thunderbirds, with Sterling collecting seven gains and five intercepts despite also getting a talking to from the umpire in the final quarter.

STARTING SEVEN

Queensland Firebirds
GK | Laura Clemesha
GD | Kim Jenner
WD | Gabi Simpson
C | Jemma MiMi
WA | Caitlyn Nevins
GA | Gretel Tippett
GS | Romelda Aiken

Adelaide Thunderbirds
GK | Shamera Sterling
GD | Kate Shimmin
WD | Shadine Van Der Merwe
C | Hannah Petty
WA | Chelsea Pitman
GA | Maria Folau
GS | Sasha Glasgow

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