With only two weeks to go until the business end of the season, and with a fair amount on the line, the Port Pirie Netball Association A Grade teams hit the court for week 14 of the competition.
This week there were two quality games which added further intrigue in relation to the make-up of this year’s final four.
First up, coach Cherie Peterson led her Blue Wren squad into the John Pirie Secondary School gymnasium to take on coach Teresa Tancocks’ Central Risdon.
The last outing between these two was a last minute thriller with Central only just hanging on to take the points, and on current form, a similar game was expected.
At one end, Wrens Cara Fiebig and Lori Ireland took the attacking circle, stood by Centrals’ Abbey Lagoudis and Alyse Lynch, at the other, Central shooters Tegan Edwards and Samarah Wark were matched up against Wrens Claudia Pisani and Nicole Afford.
Patrolling the midcourt for the Wrens, Katie Gloede returned to Pirie netball to accompany Gracie Peterson and Eden Smith, whilst for Central, Ashleigh Possingham, and Alana and Samantha Pine were ready to run also.
The first quarter was all Central, from the opening whistle they made every post a winner, and with some accurate shooting, were able to stretch a lead in their favour of 21 goals to 12, and they had the game firmly in their grasp.
Coach Peterson then made some telling moves, moving Gloede to the defensive circle and Afford to centre, and this move had immediate effect.
In fact from this point on, it was Blue Wren who assumed control of the game, as in the second quarter they outscored Central 16 goals to 15 to narrow the margin by one, but importantly, show they were just not going to go away, they were there to fight this one out, especially with a double chance at stake, and, at the half, central still had the lead, 36-28.
Coach Peterson made another move at the long break bringing Tiah Peek on at wing defence, and again, this produced a response for the Wrens, as they dug deeper, and again narrowed the lead further in the third quarter, and when time expired after 45 minutes of netball the game was well within the Wrens reach, with Central still in front 50-45.
Both teams remained unchanged in the last, and again the Wrens piled on the pressure and time and time again chipped away at the Central lead, until just before full time when the scores were levelled.
But, in one of the final plays of the game, Central were able to score that one extra goal to inch to the lead after being in total control earlier, and managed to hold on until the final whistle to just take the game with a final score 63-62.
For the Wrens and their valiant comeback it was a matter of so close, but so far, and for the night Fiebig and Afford were on fire at their respective ends of the court, and Katie Gloede was named as their best for the night.
And, for Central, Lynch and Wark stood out in their individual circles, and Tegan Edwards was named as the best player on court.
Then for the second game of the evening, coach Justina Adams’ Solomontown took on coach Simone Caputo’s St Mark’s Celtic.
There was a lot on the line for these two teams also, with a win for Solomontown putting them at an advantage for a double chance over near rival Blue Wren, and a win for SMC would almost certainly guarantee them a Finals berth for 2017.
Previously, Solomontown has had the better of SMC this season, with a big win first up, then SMC responding in their second encounter to narrowly lose by a handful of goals.
So, would the SMC revival continue?
Umm, after fifteen minutes, you would have said ‘no’, as Solomontown exploded into life scoring freely, and denying SMC an easy avenue to goal.
Both Teams went into this one with very familiar lineups, with Jacqui Iley and Maddison Pryor taking the Cats goal circle, Tayla Stevens, Georgia Scarman and Talisha Warne running the middle, and Chloe Knibbs and Emily Gray defending their goal.
SMC, conversely, went in with Brittany Possingham, Kate Kilpatrick and Chelsey Caputo running their engine room, and with goalies Millie Tubb and Brooke Caputo at one end, and defenders Maddison Caputo and Katrina Fitzpatrick at the other.
Importantly, throughout the encounter, neither Coach made a change, so where they started the game, that is where they finished. Good old-fashioned netball.
As such, after fifteen minutes of action, the Cats had raced to an 18-6 lead, which, to a team as strong as Solomontown, is effectively insurmountable.
Or so you would think.
SMC responded like a good team would in the second term to outscore the Cats 15-12, and reduce the margin to nine at the main break, with the score 30-21.
As previously said, no changes in personnel, but there was certainly a marked change in intensity, especially from Solomontown, who responded with a third quarter salvo of 17 goals to 12, extending their lead to fourteen goals at the final break, and for most teams, that would be enough.
And so it was so in this clash too, with SMC able to rally and outscore Solomontown by two in the final fifteen minutes to win the quarter 12-10, but in the end, the Cats would take the win 55-43, and importantly, put one hand on a double chance leading into the final round, just clear of their nearest rival, Blue Wren.
For SMC, Maddison and Chelsey Caputo gave it their all, and Millie Tub was named as their best.
And, for the winning Cats, Scarman and Stevens were very effective for the duration, and Maddison Pryor was adjudged to be Best Player on Court.
Congratulations must also go to Tayla Stevens for her efforts, and for this, was named as Player of the Week.
So, to this week’s final round of matches.
Blue Wren and Solomontown will do battle, with both teams a chance to win a double chance in week one of the finals if the results go their way, and also, Port and SMC will take it to the line with both teams vying for a finals berth, again, if the numbers work in their favour.
It really is that close, and both games will be extremely telling in shaping the 2017 PPNA A Grade finals series.