The Collingwood Magpies top four aspirations are still alive, after a dominant 66-59 win over the Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane. The Firebirds are officially knocked-out.
Gabby Sinclair played with grit and grace to energise the Collingwood Magpies' finals hopes in a 66-59 win against the Queensland Firebirds at Brisbane's Nissan Arena.
The Magpies kept their heads in the face of a fierce Firebirds' fightback powered by some long-range bombs from Romelda Aiken (31 points) and a gutsy performance from defender Rudi Ellis.
Their success means Collingwood remains a mathematical chance of sneaking into the top four with one match of the regular season remaining.
Sinclair was in tears of pain when she left the court in the second quarter to have a dislocated finger popped back but the discomfort she heaped on the Queenslanders was even greater.
The goal attack used every ounce of court craft for 14 goals, including three from two-point range, 21 feeds and 18 assists.
"It was a tough fight at the end. The Firebirds came back really strongly," Sinclair said.
"I was proud of our team for pushing through."
Sinclair's circle partner Shimona Nelson backed up strongly from her 69-goal spree last round to help sink the Firebirds with 49 goals.
The Firebirds started the game level on competition points with the Magpies but could have done with some of the spirit shown by Collingwood defender Jodi-Ann Ward.
Ward (177cm) conceded almost 20cm to Aiken and 15cm to Gretel Bueta but she was a handful for both Queensland shooters.
It was a season that promised much for the Firebirds but they are now out of the race for the finals.
The Firebirds entered the game without Jemma Mi Mi (calf), even before the pace and intensity had a chance to drain the players' energy reserves.
Queensland couldn't keep pace with the sharp Magpies, and within moments of returning for the second quarter, captain Gabi Simpson and Aiken were demoted to the bench.
The Firebirds stalwarts were not the only casualties. Magpie Sinclair, who opened the game with a flurry of goals, disappeared briefly to the bench for treatment to a finger dislocated in a contest with opponent Kim Jenner.
Life without Simpson and Aiken was a gloomy prospect for the Firebirds who struggled without their leaders.
The one exception was Ellis who has grown in confidence every outing since she slipped on the starting goal keeper bib last week.
There is power in those flamingo limbs, and she launched herself high above the court for two intercepts, eight deflections and a blocked shot against one of the best in the business, Nelson.
Aiken returned for an impressive fourth quarter cameo but the Firebirds left their charge too late.
Q1: Firebirds 13 v Magpies 19
Q2: Firebirds 27 v Magpies 34
Q3: Firebirds 41 v Magpies 51
Q4: Firebirds 59 v Magpies 66
Player of the Match: Gabby Sinclair (Magpies)
Firebirds Shooting Statistics:
Romelda Aiken: 29/42 - 69%, G1: 27/37, G2: 2/5, Total Points: 31
Gretel Bueta: 18/21 - 86%, G1: 16/18, G2: 2/3, Total Points: 20
Tippah Dwan: 7/10 - 70%, G1: 6/6, G2: 1/4, Total Points: 8
Magpies Shooting Statistics:
Shimona Nelson: 49/51 - 96%, G1: 49/51, G2: 0/0, Total Points: 49
Gabby Sinclair: 14/19 - 74%, G1: 11/15, G2: 3/4, Total Points: 17
Kalifa McCollin: 0/2 - 0%, G1: 0/2, G2: 0/0, Total Points: 0
Firebirds Starting Seven: GS - Romelda Aiken, GA - Gretel Bueta, WA - Lara Dunkley, C - Kim Ravaillion, WD - Gabi Simpson (C), GD - Kim Jenner, GK - Rudi Ellis
Magpies Starting Seven: GS - Shimona Nelson, GA - Gabby Sinclair, WA - Kelsey Browne, C - Molly Jovic, WD - Ash Brazill, GD - Jodi-Ann Ward, GK - Geva Mentor (C)