Valley Gold to meet Lightning Strike

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Valley Gold will lock horns with Waitaki Girls’ Lightning Strike in the year’s North Otago Premier Netball division final on Saturday.

Valley Gold performed well to edge out an unrelenting Athletic 31-29 to secure a place in the final.

Gold held a 10-4 advantage at the end of first quarter but took a slender 17-14 lead into the half-time break. Athies began to look menacing in the third quarter, reining Gold in to a 22-22 scoreline but Valley rallied in the final quarter and held out for the two point victory.

Gold skipper Abbey McKenzie said she was pleased with her players’ sprightly start.

“Valley started well, which is something we have battled with this year, which laid the platform for rest of game,” she said.

“Athies continuously got themselves back into the game, so I am very proud that we were able to keep calm and take the win.”

McKenzie said said she was expecting a different type of challenge form Waitaki on Saturday and would be looking to contain the attacking threat of shooter Jennifer O’Connell.

“Next week is a different game altogether. Playing school girls is slightly different to other club teams,” she said.

“They bring speed and energy so we will train with that in mind. We need to work on our connections to make sure they are as strong as possible in all combinations, and our through court defence knowing Jennifer (O’Connell) will be their target.”

The battle of the Waitaki teams ensued at 3pm, with Lightning Strike producing a consistent display, taking an impressive 15-4 lead into the second quarter.

Lightning Strike continued to dominate throughout the encounter, with a 26-11 halftime score and a 34-16 advantage heading in to the contest’s third break before running out 40-25 winners.

Lightning Strike coach Rihi Salter said accurate shooting was the difference between the two sides but praised Wildfire’s efforts.

“When Lightning Strike got up it was hard for Wildfire to pull it back. Wildfire still played really well,” she said.

“Wildfire got a lot of ball in mid-court but couldn’t convert.”

Salter will hand the coaching reins back to her mother Georgie for the final as she returns to her post as Valley coach.

Excelsior and SKC Snr A will play in the bottom four final, after blues proved too strong for Valley Silver for a 42-31 win in their semi-final, while SKC Snr A toppled SKC Snr B 29-20.

By JAMES FORD