Vixens take top spot at half-way mark

_MCA8056LiTHE Melbourne Vixens have recovered from an up-and-down start to the season to claim top spot on the ANZ Championship ladder at the half-way mark of the season.

The Vixens moved to first place on percentage after defeating the NSW Swifts 56-50 in Sydney on Sunday. It was the Vixens third straight win, but they have played one more game than the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, who had the bye last round.

Veteran shooter Catherine Cox inspired the Vixens to one of their best ever victories as they overhauled a nine-goal deficit early in the second half to run out winners.

Cox, who last week announced she’s retiring from netball at the end of the season, watched the first half from the bench.

But when coach Simone McKinnis put her into the game at goal attack she took control, shooting 18 goals at 94 per cent accuracy in the second half as the Vixens overpowered the Swifts in the final term in what could be her final match in Sydney.

_MCA7917LiVixens captain Bianca Chatfield said she was proud of Cox’s performance against one of her former sides.

“That’s why she has been such a legend of the game, the experience she adds for us on court,” Chatfield said.

The Sargeant-McKinnis Cup, played for by both sides, will now be decided in the return clash between the two sides in Melbourne on May 4. The Swifts need to win that match by at least seven goals to hold onto the trophy for the fifth consecutive year.

The Vixens are at home on Easter Saturday to the Adelaide Thunderbirds, who had the bye last round.

Meanwhile the West Coast Fever continued its rise up the ladder after they also produced a stirring final quarter to topple the Queensland Firebirds in Perth.

The unlikely hero for the Fever was Chelsea Pitman, who played at goal attack in the last quarter and inspired her teammates to a 48-42 win.

It was the first time the Fever had beaten the Firebirds in Perth and gives West Coast back-to-back wins for the first time since Round 3 last season.

Pitman, who was only thrown the goal attack bib after an injury to Fever captain Natalie Medhurst, shot two goals and had eight goal assists in the final term.

“Such a gutsy win for us (after) throwing people in positions they haven’t played in a very long time,” Pitman said.

The Fever have a bye this weekend while the Firebirds host the Swifts on Sunday in a crucial game for their finals prospects.

“You really can only afford three losses (in a season) and that’s our fourth so it’s probably really do-or-die for us now,” Firebirds captain Laura Geitz said after the match.

“Moving forward we need to win every game.”