West Coast Fever will aim to lock down top spot in the trans-Tasman netball league this week after extending their unbeaten start to nine games.
So long ANZ Championship also-rans, the Fever completed a sweep of the five New Zealand teams when they defeated Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic 54-49 in Perth on Sunday.
The hosts scored the first six goals of the game and held on to win despite a late charge from the Magic, with Diamonds star Caitlin Bassett unusually missing 15 shots but still nailing 39 in her 100th consecutive appearance, having never missed a game with West Coast.
Fever coach Stacey Rosman now turns her attention to Friday night’s blockbuster at Perth Arena against the Queensland Firebirds, when a win will take her team further clear on top but a loss would leave the door open for the Firebirds heading to the finals.
“Obviously it’s a top-of-the-table clash and it’s good to be able to say that,” Rosman said.
“We’ve never been in that predicament before and certainly the result would give us a bit of a buffer, and then also it gives us time to absorb everything going into our bye.
“They are certainly not going to give it to us easy, but at least we have a short turnaround and so do they, and they have to come to us and play in front of our crowd.”
The Fever beat the Firebirds by seven goals in Brisbane to start the season.
Bassett’s national team shooting partner Nat Medhurst scored 15 from 20 against the Magic.
At the other end, Jo Harten had 34 from 39 with Malisa Paseka scoring a perfect 13 from 13 for the Magic.
The Magic lifted in the second quarter with Paseka providing good energy as she replaced Ellen Halpenny at goal attack and the visitors trailed by six at the main break.
The Fever remained in control through the second half despite losing defender April Letton to an ankle injury.
Magic coach Julie Fitzgerald was critical of her team’s poor start.
“I’m just bitterly disappointed in our attacking connections. I thought the number of errors we made that were unforced was terribly disappointing,” Fitzgerald said.
“It was very unusual for us to be that unsettled at the start of a game and we’ll have to try and work out what was going on in that first 10 minutes.”