The Panthers have booked their place in the 2016 SAMSUNG Premier League U20s Division Grand Final after a 55-44 win over the Sutherland Stingrays at Netball Central on Wednesday 17 August.
The Panthers will now take on the UTS St George Sparks in next week’s competition finale and hope to be crowned the inaugural U20 winners of Netball NSW’s newest elite tournament.
Wonderful defence and strong second and third quarters proved to be key for the Panthers against a spirited Stingrays outfit who never gave up but just didn’t have enough on the night.
After both sides registered early goals it was the Panthers who took the first initiative and some excellent defence in the midcourt afforded Abbey McFadden and Amelia Holz the opportunity to open up a 6-2 lead.
That jolted the Stingrays into life, however, and quick scores from goal shooter Dellilah Koli and goal attack Shelby Mallon pegged the Panthers back and put the contest on an even keel.
The sides were locked at 10 goals apiece with five remaining in the opening period but both were guilty of turning the ball over in the shooting end which meant neither could break away. The Stingrays took a one-goal lead to the first break but only after a passage of play in which both teams were guilty of numerous turnovers.
Four quick goals put the Panthers back in the ascendancy early in the second quarter before Koli and Mallon managed to stem the tide again and get Sutherland back on level terms.
The period was playing out very like the first with the Stingrays coming back to hit the lead again, and neither side managing to be very fluent in attack. However, credit had to go to both sets of defences which harried to great effect.
But the Panthers rallied well towards the end of the period with centre Rylee Towell and wing attack Chelsea Bolton winning plenty of possession to give Holz and McFadden chances to score. While at the other end goal defence Maddison Mann and goal keeper Renee Mihaere were starting to put all kinds of pressure on the Stingrays’ attacking duo.
It resulted in the Panthers taking a hard-earned 30-25 lead to the big break but the contest was swinging like a pendulum.
The third quarter started a tight, tense affair as both defences pressed hard but it was the Stingrays who made better headway, using a short, patient passing game to get back within two goals of their opponents.
That seemed to be the push the Panthers needed to kick into gear again and wonderful, long-range shooting from McFadden was key as the Penrith side took a seven-goal lead a minute out from the last break.
The momentum was well and truly with the Panthers going into the final quarter and they stepped it up when it mattered most. They were particularly strong in defence again which frustrated Sutherland into turning the ball over and gave their opponents chances to punish them.
At the shooting end McFadden and Holz did what was required to keep the Panthers’ lead building and with 10 minutes to go it had grown to 12. The sides exchanged scores for the remainder of the game but the Stingrays could never get close enough to threaten the Panthers’ Grand Final place.
PANTHERS | Q1: 14 – Q2: 30 (16) – Q3: 42 (12) – Q4 55 (13)
STINGRAYS | Q1: 15 – Q2: 25 (10) – Q3: 35 (10) – Q4: 44 (9)
PANTHERS 55/64 @ 86%
A Holz: 32/37 @ 86%
A McFadden: 23/27 @ 85%
STINGRAYS: 44/58 @ 76%
D Koli: 30/37 @ 81%
S Mallon: 10/14 @ 71%
R McRay: 4/7 @ 57%
PANTHERS | GS Amelia Holz, GA Abbey McFadden, WA Chelsea Bolton, C Rylee Towell, WD Liana Hogarth, GD Maddison Mann, GK Renee Mihaere.
STINGRAYS | GS Dellilah Koli, GA Shelby Mallon, WA Alexa Cardassilaris, C Lili Gorman-Brown, WD Britney Pierce, GD Tara Storenbeker, GK Te-arn Bradley.