The Giants will host next week’s Super Netball minor semi-final after locking in third spot with a 68-65 victory over Sunshine Coast Lightning.
Having guaranteed a top-four finish with last week’s dramatic one-goal win over Queensland Firebirds, the Giants took care of business against the Lightning at Ken Rosewall Arena on Saturday to ensure fourth-ranked Collingwood Magpies cannot overtake them in the final round.
The Giants built a comfortable 14-goal advantage in the second quarter then withstood a late challenge from the last-placed Lightning to qualify for the finals for the second year in a row.
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Looking to go one better following their four-goal loss to NSW Swifts in last season’s championship decider, Giants coach Julie Fitzgerald praised the way her squad bounced back from COVID outbreaks and three losses in their opening four games to return to the finals.
“It has been a really big season and I think we’ve been through a lot in this season so to finish third, we’re very, very happy with … it means the world to us,” Fitzgerald said as the Giants await the outcome of the remaining round 14 matches to determine who they will face next week.
Collingwood can secure the final playoff spot by defeating minor premiers Melbourne Vixens in Monday’s blockbuster derby clash but the door remains open for the Firebirds, Adelaide Thunderbirds or Swifts to finish fourth with a Magpies loss.
The Giants scored the opening six goals of the game then absorbed a brief flourish from Sunshine Coast to lead 39-27 at halftime. A 20-goal second quarter triggered memories of their 82-54 shellacking over the Lightning back in round seven.
But with Cara Koenen (39 goals at 100 per cent accuracy) spearheading the attack, the visitors launched a second-half fightback and provided a few anxious moments for the Giants when a late two-point flurry from Reilley Batcheldor closed the gap to three in the dying seconds.
It took a Tilly McDonell interception to end all hope of a miracle finish for the Lightning, the two-time premiership winners closing the season on the bottom of the ladder and missing the semi-finals for the first time in their six-year history.
Captain Jo Harten (45-of-49 at 92 per cent accuracy) produced another MVP performance but sent a scare through the Giants camp when she fell to the court clutching her back following a tough collision in the final quarter.
But the inspirational captain played out the rest of the match and looks certain to take her place in the minor semi.
“She is all right, my heart did stop when she took that fall,” Fitzgerald said about the incident involving Harten.
“But she’s amazing – not only with what she does on the court but as a captain off the court for us.”