16 Sep Bull Sharks fall just short against the Thunder
The USC Thunder triumphed 44-38 over the Bond University Bull Sharks at Nissan Arena on Sunday, recording their second victory of the season and strengthening their hold on 4th position in the HART Sapphire Series.
Both sides recognised this fixture as an opportunity to claim valuable points after indifferent starts to the season, and the importance of the game may have been weighing on the players’ minds in a frantic, error-strewn first quarter where neither team was able to establish control.
The character of the opening minutes was driven by strong defensive efforts at both ends of the court. Emily Gilbert looked comfortable in her first start in the Sapphire Series when combining with the more experienced Shenae Grant, while the Thunder’s Lily-May Catling was heavily involved in three consecutive turnovers, guiding her side to a 11-7 lead.
The defensive pressure continued to be applied after the break, as Catling, Sarahpheinna Woulf and Ashlee Unie forced the Bull Sharks away from their goal circle. Going forward, Chloe Litherland sliced through the opposition defence with several critical assists for her namesake Chloe Bingham (12/13), and Ali Wishier was instrumental in generating scoring opportunities through clever combinations with the Thunder shooters.
Midway through the third quarter the Thunder had increased their advantage to 15 goals courtesy of Annabelle Lawrie (21/29) and Binnian Hunt (11/16) and were threatening to build an insurmountable lead. As in previous weeks, Bull Sharks Coach Sheryl Burns tried a number of mid-court combinations but her developing side appeared to lack connection, at least until the introduction of Leigh Alder at Centre.
Alder spearheaded a Bull Sharks resurgence, providing the pace that was missing from the side in the first half and overwhelming the Thunder in transition alongside Rylee Burns, fresh from being named in the Netball Australia U19 Centre of Excellence squad.
The Bull Sharks completed an 8-1 run and continued their momentum in the last term, with the ever-improving Stephanie Bairstow (29/37) the beneficiary of inspired attacking play.
Their opponents seemed somewhat deflated and the communication that gave the Thunder the lead initially started to break down. Nevertheless, the Sunshine Coast side withstood the pressure and remained composed to seal a crucial win.
The Thunder face a tough challenge to secure back-to-back wins as they play the Jets when the Sapphire Series resumes in a fortnight’s time, while the Bull Sharks have another opportunity to seal their first victory against the 5th placed Tigers.
Thunder 44 Bull Sharks 38