The Melbourne Vixens’ 2016 ANZ Championship campaign has come to an end after going down to the NSW Swifts 67-53 in the Australian Conference Elimination Final in Sydney
The star-studded NSW Swifts line-up were in menacing form from the get-go, but despite the loss, Vixens Coach Simone McKinnis said there were many positives to reflect on.
“The Swifts are a strong team, and we were outplayed and on the back foot at different times today,” McKinnis said.
“But in terms of individuals, I thought there were some really strong performances. Today was an invaluable experience [for our young players] and I thought we finished off the game well.”
McKinnis added that she was proud of the resilient group in what has been an injury-plagued season.
“Overall I thought we worked really hard to give us the best chance to get into finals and compete. Today we weren’t up for it, but in terms of doing the work to get us into finals, I’m very proud,” she said.
The Swifts came out of the blocks firing, moving the ball fast in attack and racing out to a quick lead.
The Vixens’ nerves settled as the opening quarter wore on and some great feeds into 19-year-old Emma Ryde by Captain Madi Robinson and Liz Watson helped the visitors draw back to trail by only four at the first break.
McKinnis turned to her bench in the second stanza, bringing Emily Mannix into the mix for Geva Mentor at Goal Keeper, and substituting Kim Commane for Alice Teague-Neeld in Goal Attack.
In what proved to be a match-defining term, the Swifts defenders stepped it up a notch, creating lots of turnover ball which was expertly converted by the seasoned shooting duo of Caitlin Thwaites and Susan Pettitt.
Recording only one miss in the first half, the Swifts stormed ahead to a 37-25 lead.
The home side’s momentum continued into the third term. Intense defensive pressure forced the Vixens to work overtime to reach the circle, providing Swifts duo Sharni Layton and Maddy Turner the opportunity to pounce and pick off turnovers.
Despite strong passages of play for the Vixens, the NSW Swifts enjoyed an 18-goal buffer with one to play.
The last term was all about the Vixens young guns, with Ryde, 19, Teague-Neeld, 20, Chloe Watson, 22, Kelsey Browne, 24 and Mannix, 22, all taking the court and contributing to a strong final term.
Despite the late resurgence, the experienced NSW Swifts proved too strong and secured themselves a place against the Queensland Firebirds in next week’s Australian Conference Final.
Vixens Shooting Statistics
Emma Ryde 37/42 (88%)
Alice Teague-Neeld 10/12 (83%)
Kim Commane 6/6 (100%)
Swifts Shooting Statistics
Caitlin Thwaites 40/44 (91%)
Susan Pettitt 23/24 (96%)
Stephanie Wood 4/7 (57%)