West Coast Fever’s hopes of claiming the minor premiership are slipping away after a disastrous 72-68 loss to Queensland Firebirds at RAC Arena on Saturday night.
Fever were missing plenty of midcourt class because of the absence of Jess Anstiss (foot) and Verity Simmons (COVID-19), but more often than not, they were their own worst enemies.
Sloppy passes and poor ball handling in attack cost them from the opening whistle, and while they dominated the match early, they could never put the Firebirds away.
Fever coach Dan Ryan said his team “were outworked by a team that clearly wanted it more”.
“We had to keep rolling the dice looking for answers and we weren’t able to win our own individual battles against a team that was playing for their season,” Ryan said.
“The Firebirds were too good today, credit to them they played like a connected team that was playing for everything and we couldn’t compete for long enough with them, unfortunately.”
Ryan was not concerned with the potential to miss out on top spot.
“Ladder positions right now for us become a little bit irrelevant,” Ryan said.
“I’m concerned about the quality of performance we put across four quarters and if that means if we finish second or first, I don’t really care.
“I want to make sure we’re executing how we need to play at this level to win those tough games.”
Superstar shooter Jhaniele Fowler did not let one opportunity slip with 60 goals from as many shots, but she was starved of her usual chances.
Fever coughed up a whopping 20 general-play turnovers, 13 unforced, with seven players conceding two or more in a night they’ll want to forget.
The home team’s defence was doing their best to create turnovers, with Sunday Aryang flying at everything despite getting out of isolation just hours earlier.
But the longer the game went the more Fever got sucked into the physical game style of the Firebirds and the undisciplined penalties stacked up. The Firebirds were the more composed side in the final term, as Fever let their emotions spill over to drop the vital contest in front of a bumper home crowd.
Fever will now be hoping the bottom-placed Sunshine Coast Lightning defeat ladder-leaders Melbourne Vixens on Sunday to keep them in the hunt to finish on top and with a home semifinal.