PIES CONQUER FIREBIRDS IN TASSIE
The Collingwood Magpies have secured a vital 67-62 win over the Queensland Firebirds in their Suncorp Super Netball match played at the Silverdome in Launceston, Tasmania.
With the Magpies searching for answers after just one win from five starts, head coach Kristy Keppich-Birrell made some adjustments to her starting line-up, with Matilda Garrett and Shae Brown getting the nod at the goal keeper and centre position.
It turned out to be a masterstroke, with defender Sharni Layton entering the fray late in the third quarter and coming up huge in the final quarter - won 17-12 by the Magpies - with two critical intercepts that helped pave the way for the win.
The Magpies had also struggled early in the season to find a way to weave new recruit Erin Bell into their roster, but she was the difference in this match - shooting 33/39 at 85 per cent.
Firebirds goal shooter Romelda Aiken marked her 150th national league match in this showdown, marking an 11-year career in Queensland that has seen the Jamaican star miss just one match in that time. After a slow start, she became the target for a huge Firebirds comeback in the third quarter, but it was not enough to secure the win.
Collingwood opened with plenty of energy to open up a 6-2 lead to shock the Firebirds, the visitors opting for an early timeout. The early defensive pressure jolted the Firebirds off their game, with Aiken only finding one basket in the opening exchanges.
The visitors fought their way back hard, but Bell (9/10) ensured Collingwood would take the bonus point for the first quarter with a 17-16 lead.
Kim Jenner was brought in to replace Tara Hinchliffe at goal defence in a bid to slow down Bell, who had been afforded enormous space in the first quarter and had cashed in.
Bell had been shooting at 70 per cent for the season but was going at a clip of 92 per cent here as the two sides traded blows in the second quarter. The Firebirds struggled to get out of second gear in the face of the Magpies pressure but managed to stay within reach.
That pressure began to pay off, though as the Magpies opened up a five-goal lead in the shadows of halftime.
The Firebirds made a string of changes in the third quarter, bringing Jemma Mi Mi into wing attack, Mahalia Cassidy into centre and bringing Hinchliffe back into the attack, but Bell kept ringing for Collingwood as the home side pushed their lead out to seven.
Aiken had been struggling with her radar, but after whispering some motivational words to herself the shots began to drop and the Firebirds fought their way back to level pegging at three-quarter time off the back of an 8-2 run.
But the Magpies were able to skip away with the win off the back of excellent defence and solid finishing in the goal circle.
Keppich-Birrell said her team fed off the amazing energy from the Silverdome crowd in Launceston.
"We love playing down here," she said post-game.
"We love the crowd and it lifts the players. They celebrate every little win during the game"
Keppich-Birrell said the decision to start Garrett was based on the 19-year-old's impressive form.
"Tilly has been working so hard in the pre-season and she was rewarded for the form she's shown early in the season."
"The momentum in the third quarter was swinging and we thought something needed to change.
"Sharni injected immediate and impact into the contest, and that was great for the team."
Q1: Magpies 17 v Firebirds 16
Q2: Magpies 18 v Firebirds 15
Q3: Magpies 15 v Firebirds 19
Q4: Magpies 17 v Firebirds 12
Suncorp Super Netball premiership points
Magpies shooting statistics
Caitlin Thwaites 34/40
Erin Bell 33/39
Firebirds shooting statistics
Romelda Aiken 42/51
Gretel Tippett 20/21
Magpies starting seven
GS: Caitlin Thwaites, GA: Erin Bell, WA: Madi Robinson, C: Shae Brown, WD: Ash Brazill, GD: April Brandley, GK: Matilda Garrett
Firebirds starting seven
GS: Romelda Aiken, GA: Gretel Tippett, WA: Caitlyn Nevins, C: Mahalia Cassidy, WD: Gabi Simpson, GD: Tara Hinchliffe, GK: Laura Geitz
Match MVP: Erin Bell