Mavericks pinch netball nail-biter against Lightning

Steve Barrett |

Gabrielle Sinclair proved the Mavericks’ match-winner in the thriller against the Lightning.
Gabrielle Sinclair proved the Mavericks’ match-winner in the thriller against the Lightning.

The Melbourne Mavericks’ dream of a fairytale Super Netball finals appearance in their debut season remains alive after they beat Sunshine Coast Lightning 72-71 in heart-stopping fashion in Hobart.

The Lightning would have all but locked away a finals berth with victory at MyState Bank Arena on Saturday night, but captain Steph Fretwell’s missed two-pointer on the fulltime bell has left the door ajar for the Melbourne Vixens to sneak into the four.

The result sees both teams sitting on identical 5-7 win-loss records, with the Lightning sitting inside the four due to their superior percentage.

The Mavs trailed at every change and by five midway through the fourth quarter but they never stopped coming.

Midcourter Tayla Fraser played the finest game of her career, while the sharp shooting of Shimona Jok and Eleanor Cardwell kept the Mavericks in the hunt before Gabrielle Sinclair coolly buried two clutch Super Shots in the last 40 seconds.

“I’m actually a bit shocked,” Fraser said.

“How good was Gabby Sinclair with those two-pointers at the end.

“At the start (of the season) we were a little slow  – that’s what happens when you’ve only been together for six months.

“I think it’s really starting to come together.”

Diamonds captain Liz Watson was in everything early for the Lightning, who led 20-18 at the end of a high-tempo first term, before Fretwell’s Super Shot on the stroke of halftime gave Sunshine Coast a 37-34 cushion.

Watson continued to wreak havoc for the Lightning, who extended their lead to five in the third stanza, prompting Mavericks coach Tracey Neville to call an impassioned time-out.

“Guys, you have to be disciplined,” she told her charges.

“You cannot think this is going to come for free.”

Her players responded with a 5-0 spree to briefly steal their first lead before the Lightning ripped it back again on the cusp of three-quarter time.

The on-target Mavs hit their first 53 shot attempts but Sunshine Coast still held sway by five and looked a finals lock before coming unstuck late.

In a high-stakes game of fine margins, Cara Koenen missed a sitter and Fretwell was called for stepping, before the Mavericks pounced through bench wildcard Sinclair, who proved the match-winning difference when she came on with five minutes to go.