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Swifts celebrate come-from-behind win

2 March 2014

NSW Swifts (54) defeated West Coast Fever (51)

Swifts celebrate come-from-behind win

A new coach and the signing of a key defensive player helped NSW Swifts overcome a valiant West Coast Fever 54-51 in a battling come-from-behind win to open their 2014 campaign in Sydney on Sunday.

Making history as the first male coach of an ANZ Championship team, Rob Wright celebrated a first-up win while defender Sharni Layton proved an influential off-season recruit with an inspiring first outing for the Swifts.

On the back foot through the first half, Swifts, tipped as title contenders, came home strongly against a dogged Fever, tipped to be the big improvers, in a compelling season-opener for both.

Fever could not sustain their strong momentum of the first half as Swifts made up for lost ground through the experienced heads of captain Kim Green and Susan Pratley, and the prowess and the ever-present Layton.

Stretching out to a four-goal advantage in the last quarter, the Swifts could not rest easy but Fever buckled under pressure, the heated atmosphere leading to a messy finish as turnovers mounted.

The exciting new-look Fever line-up quickly recovered from a slow start to gain the upper hand through the opening quarter.

Finding their transitional flow, where recruits Khao Watts and captain Natalie Medhurst were prominent, set up an abundant supply of ball for Fever’s key shooting weapon Caitlin Bassett who proved a dominant figure.

On the other hand, the home team struggled to execute in their attacking third where the menacing presence of Fever defenders Josie Janz and Ebony Beckford-Chambers were influential spoilers.

Well contained, the Swifts new shooting combination of Pratley and Caitlin Thwaites lacked cohesion as Fever sprung out to a 15-12 lead at the first break.

It was all Fever on the resumption, the visitors pushing out to seven-goal lead before the hosts responded with a determined fight-back in a bid to stop the match from slipping away. Pratley got more involved, finding space and timing with greater ease as her partnership with Thwaites started to click.

At the other end, the vocal and rangy defensive duo of Layton and Sonia Mkoloma became more prominent, the athletic Layton, in particular, helping Swifts pick up vital turnover ball. The home team prevented any further damage, the three-goal deficit remaining as Fever went to the main break with a 30-27 lead.

Swifts continued their spirited comeback in the third stanza, captain Green swapping bibs with Paige Hadley and moving into wing attack with immediate effect. Fortunes ebbed and flowed initially before Green and Pratley stepped up the intensity.

Finding their shooters with greater ease, Swifts levelled the scores three minutes before the final break forcing Fever to make changes.

Chanel Gomes replaced Janz at goal defence while Shae Bolton took over from Watts at centre. At the other end Layton continued her growing involvement with a standout effort against the 1.93m Bassett, who felt the heat under the hoop.

The teams headed into the home straight all locked up at 43-apiece.

With the bit between their teeth and little errors creeping into Fever’s game, Swifts growing confidence and tenacity helped the home team hold on for a spirited but hard-fought opening win.

Swifts shooting statistics:
Susan Pratley 30/33 (91%)
Caitlin Thwaites 24/28 (86%)

Fever shooting statistics:
Caitlin Bassett 42/50 (84%)
Natalie Medhurst 9/12 (75%)

Match MVP: Susan Pratley (NSW Swifts)


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