A strong second half ensured the Melbourne Vixens preserved their unbeaten run in the ANZ Championship with a 49-43 win over the Adelaide Thunderbirds in Adelaide today.
The Vixens emerged from a tight first half to show more composure and stronger finishing, in the process making it three wins from three and remaining the only unbeaten Australian team in the competition.
With the talent on show, the individual match-ups across the court were always going to add extra spice to proceedings and it didn’t disappoint.
As expected, there was a little between the evenly-matched teams early on before the Vixens got the upper hand in the second half.
Both goal shooters, Kate Beveridge (Thunderbirds) and Caitlin Thwaites (Vixens) found time to find their feet after being put under the pump defensively. Goal attacks Natalie Medhurst and Sharelle McMahon stepped up to the plate for their respective teams to keep the scores level-pegging.
The Thunderbirds were first to gain an early momentum swing, capitalising on the odd lapse and errant passing from the Vixens to build a four-goal buffer. In a bid to reduce the fast break the Thunderbirds are renowned for, the Vixens successfully employed a midcourt press to close the gap heading into the first break with the home team 12-10 ahead.
The visitors made the best possible start on the resumption with a five-goal turn around. With more control on attack, the Vixens easily threaded the ball through court as the Thunderbirds fell slightly off the pace. It was to prove a quarter of swinging fortunes after the visitors hit the lead, the Thunderbirds replying strongly through some smart play of their own. Wing attack Laura von Bertouch, in her first start of the 2009 campaign, worked well in tandem with Medhurst while Mo’onia Gerrard was never far from the action with some timely intercepts.
Both goalkeepers, Geva Mentor (Thunderbirds) and Bianca Chatfield (Vixens), proved effective foils in restricting access to the shooters with strong showings as the ball swung back and forth in the run to half-time. With neither team able to assert any real dominance, it was still anybody’s game as the teams ended the first half locked up at 23-all.
The Vixens returned to the court unchanged while the Thunderbirds pushed Natalie von Bertouch to wing defence, her sister Laura to centre and Emily Beaton came off the bench and into wing attack.
There was a little adjustment time for the Thunderbirds as the Vixens stole the slightest of edges to hold a two-goal buffer through most of the quarter. Vixens centre Natasha Chokljat found more freedom on attack as she provided an accurate service to McMahon and Thwaites. However, the defensive efforts of both teams continued to dictate the game, ensuring the contest remained a real battle of control for the attackers.
Chatfield excelled in the custodian’s role as she kept a tight reign on the Thunderbirds shooters while Thwaites found her range with a strong quarter to shoot the Vixens into a 35-32 three-quarter time lead.
Growing in stature the longer the game progressed, a composed Vixens shot out to a handy seven-goal lead early in the run home.
Missed opportunities left the Thunderbirds playing catch-up, their late rally not being enough in the face of the more controlled and powerfully-finishing Vixens.