09 Nov Thunder knock out Wildcats in close-fought battle
The USC Thunder have progressed to the HART Sapphire Series preliminary final after defeating last year’s champions the Wildcats 49-45 at Morayfield Sports & Event Centre on Saturday.
Garry Pashen’s side held the lead from the opening minutes and threatened to pull away on multiple occasions, but each time the Wildcats bounced back, remaining close until the final quarter when their resistance was finally broken.
Confidence was running high among the Thunder players after four consecutive victories to finish the regular season and it was on display early as their mid-court trio calmly transitioned the goal circle.
The Wildcats were undone by their opponents’ patient build-up and quickly fell behind. However, the gravity of the game was felt by both sides and Thunder’s lead was reduced when errors appeared in their play, allowing Beryl Friday to poach a few goals back.
Danielle Edwards’s words at quarter-time must have inspired her team, as they returned to the court with visibly increased energy and Hulita VeVe and Chanel Gomes forced the Thunder to work harder for each goal by blocking most paths to the circle.
Going forward, the Wildcats caused plenty of issues for the Thunder by combining Friday’s composed presence with the tireless movement of rising star Lily Cubby. Their goals proved valuable when Josie Hungerford came on to assist Ali Wishier in breaking down the Brisbane South side’s defence, again preventing the margin from growing.
Wishier continued to pose a threat to the Wildcats in the second half, linking well with Chloe Litherland to produce unpredictable and varied feeds and leave the defence with little time to react, helping to extend the lead to 7 goals for the first time in the game.
As was by now becoming a pattern, the Wildcats fashioned a mini comeback. Edwards moved Danielle Taylor to centre and for the third successive game the move was effective, spreading the defensive pressure further up the court and shutting down the Thunder in their attempts to advance the ball.
The Thunder eventually distanced themselves from their opponents in the last fifteen minutes, largely due to the contributions of Ashlee Unie and Lily-May Catling, who both provided intercepts at crucial times to help their side build a 47-37 advantage.
Cubby scored four consecutive goals in the closing minutes, ensuring the score line reflected the competitive nature of the game. By that time the result was all but confirmed. The Wildcats fought until the final whistle, but unfortunately fell short.
Next week the Thunder play the Jets in the preliminary final to determine which side will face the Cougars in the Grand Final.
Thunder 49 Wildcats 45