13 Oct Thunder seal vital victory over the Wildcats
The USC Thunder have triumphed in a critical meeting between the third and fourth placed teams in the HART Sapphire Series, outscoring the Wildcats 47-41 to solidify their position on the ladder.
The result sees the Thunder move within 6 points of the reigning champions and open a significant lead over the teams below them with three rounds of the regular season remaining.
Neither side was able to gain control early in a game that had significant ramifications regardless of the outcome. The Wildcats looked more threatening in transition but were inconsistent in the goal circle in the absence of their most reliable shooter Beryl Friday, while the Thunder faced their own challenges going forward.
Fewer mistakes were made in the second quarter as the players settled into the game and showed greater decisiveness across the court. The experienced duo of Ashlee Unie and Chanel Gomes were industrious in bolstering their respective defences, both of which exerted pressure and minimised clear scoring opportunities.
The margin between the teams was rarely greater than 2 goals, as each time one side was on the brink of widening their lead, they ran into obstacles and were dragged back by their opponents. Only a late contact call and the Wildcats’ subsequent goal separated the pair at half-time.
Thunder Coach Garry Pashen alternated between shooters Binnian Hunt, Annabelle Lawrie and Chloe Bingham throughout the game, presenting the Wildcats with three distinct challenges to tackle. The team managed to establish a narrow lead when Hunt was moved to Wing Attack in the third term, adding needed fluidity, but the result was still difficult to predict as both sides made errors that gave their coaches plenty to ponder.
The Wildcats entered the final quarter determined to secure a victory and third place on the ladder, and soon made their intentions known with two unanswered goals. Lily Cubby was introduced for her Sapphire Series debut and looked as though she belonged in the league, fearlessly and accurately shooting from anywhere in the circle and prolonging her side’s hopes of closing the deficit.
There were no guarantees in a game characterised by constant momentum shifts and the Thunder fought to the end to ensure the victory, Sarahpheinna Woulf closely patrolling her goal circle and making the Wildcats work tenaciously for each and every goal. Ultimately, last year’s winners fell further behind and the Thunder earned their third and undoubtedly most important victory of the season.
The two sides now have equal records, with the Wildcats only ahead on bonus points. The coming weeks will determine if either team can move definitively ahead to claim third and whether the Bull Sharks or the Tigers can steal one of the finals positions.
Thunder 47 Wildcats 41