16 May 2010

The Adelaide Thunderbirds consolidated their top four spot with a 58-47 win over the Melbourne Vixens in Adelaide today in the first clash this year between the 2009 ANZ Championship finalists.

The Thunderbirds reversed that final result with a dominant effort as the Vixens slumped to their fourth straight loss.

With both teams in the spotlight recently for all the wrong reasons, survival in the competition was on the line.

Injury woes continue to wreak havoc in the Vixens camp with Demelza McCloud drafted in for influential defender Julie Corletto, who could miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery during the week. Dynamic midcourter Natasha Chokljat is also still recovering from an ongoing calf injury.

The Thunderbirds returned from a heavy loss last week to re-establish their title credentials in an impressive outing while the Vixens face an uphill battle in the weeks ahead.

There were several momentum shifts during the first quarter which produced plenty of turnover ball after the Vixens made the more promising start.

With Kate Beveridge playing a strong role at goal attack, the home side replied strongly to level the scores before going on an unanswered seven-goal scoring spree. Vixens shooting duo Sharelle McMahon and Caitlin Thwaites recovered from a wobbly patch to score five of their own to narrow the gap heading into the first break.

Thunderbirds defenders Geva Mentor and Mo’onia Gerrard were instrumental in shutting down their opposites’ shooting options as the home team held a narrow 15-13 lead.

The second quarter followed a similar pattern as the Vixens controlled the restart to regain the lead. The Thunderbirds weathered the storm, huge defensive pressure on every pass putting the Vixens under all sorts of pressure.

The Thunderbirds back three of Sharni Layton and the in-circle pairing of Gerrard and Mentor did a terrific job in stifling the Vixens attacking options. Thwaites and McMahon were given little room to move and were astray on the shot.

At the other end of the court, Thunderbirds shooters Beveridge and Carla Borrego were enjoying an easier service of ball and showing greater accuracy to help the home team extend their lead to 29-24 at halftime.

A switch between in-circle defenders McCloud and Bianca Chatfield paid early dividends for the Vixens who challenged the high feed to Borrego with success in a battling third quarter.

However, McMahon and Thwaites continued to struggle in exerting themselves under the hoop with the rampant Mentor and Gerrard ever alert to the intercept or rebound. Patience did pay off for the Vixens who were able to match the Thunderbirds through the stanza as the shooting duo found their rhythm to cut the margin to three.

However, the Vixens were unable to maintain consistency for any length of time with the Thunderbirds rising to any challenge they were set as they maintained their five-goal buffer to lead 40-35 at the last break.

The Thunderbirds lifted their intensity with Borrego the main benefactor as the home side quickly doubled their margin in the opening minutes. They continued to keep their foot on the pedal, the Vixens unable to break their opponents’ confidence and control of the match in the run home.

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