By Grace Gunn
Loughborough Lightning solidify their place in the top four after a 57-51 victory over Severn Stars in round 16 of the Netball Super League.
Lightning flew out of the blocks, leading 8-1in the opening minutes but a resilient Stars grew into the game, reducing the deficit to 20-13 at the end of the first quarter.
A more alert Stars entered the court for the second quarter as they brough the game to within four goals as Lightning led 31-27 at half time.
Battling hard, Stars remained in touch with the former NSL winners but remained just three behind as Lighting took a 43-40 lead into the closing 15 minutes.
Despite bringing the game to within just one goal early on, Stars fell to a 57-51 defeat against a rampant Lightning side.
A cagey start saw both sides produce turnovers in the opening minutes, but it was the travelling side of Stars who made it count as Sigi Burger sunk the first goal.
However, an energetic Lightning side began with intensity after slotting eight consecutive goals past Stars following a series of defensive intercepts from Fran Williams.
Jo Trip’s side grew into the game as they fought back through Burger after Grace Namana threaded a ball into the arms of the goal shooter.
An emphatic start from the home side saw Emma Thacker convert their 20th as they headed into the first break 20-13 up.
After settling into the end of the first quarter, Stars retained their tempo as Trip earnt an early turnover, allowing Jess Shaw to feed a long looping ball into the arms of Burger who converted.
A series of long ball into Burger, produced by Shaw, allowed Stars to reduce the deficit but the experienced Lightning side continued to convert their chances.
Showing her experience, Thacker worked herself into space, shaking off the defence before receiving the ball from Nat Panagarry, and converting.
Stars continued to battle well as substitute Jasmine Brown read Lightning’s play before intercepting and setting her side away for the counterattack; Burger scored ahead of the buzzer.
Lightning came out firing once again as they drew a seven-goal lead in the opening phase following a quick one-two between Panagarry and Thacker as the goal shooter held off the defence to convert.
Trip’s side continued to fight back as a misplaced shot from Thacker is picked up by Brown who produces a turnover for her side, providing Namana the opportunity to capitalise.
A few unforced errors from Lightning allowed the away side to remain in touch as Gabby Marshall overturned possession before Namana converted.
The experience of Vic Burgess’ side continued to show as they retained a three-goal lead heading into the closing 15 minutes as they looked to cement their place in the top four.
Stars continued where they left off as Burger converted straight from the centre pass but the three-goal lead for the hosts was back intact as Thacker replied with a goal of her own.
The high-flying visitors remained in touch of Lightning as Shaw’s looping ball fell into the arms of the clinical Burger which was followed up with another seconds later.
Lightning’s defence stood resolute as the duo rose above Burger to intercept the dangerous attack but an intercept from Rachel Fee provided Stars with another turnover; this time they made it stick.
Namana brought the game to within just one goal after sinking a composed long shot but a late onslaught from the home side provided them with six goal lead despite Stars’ best efforts.
Burgess’ side secured all three points in a closely contested battle after a 57-51 win over Trip’s Stars.
Player of the Match: Loughborough Lightning’s Nat Panagarry