Ervin steps up as Lightning brings down Firebirds

Sunshine Coast Lightning have maintained their Super Netball stranglehold on the Queensland Firebirds with a clinical 76-65 victory at UniSC Arena.

Commanding performances in the first and third quarters on Saturday took the Lightning to their 11th win from 16 derbies against the out-of-sorts Firebirds, who slumped to their fifth successive defeat.

Emerging defender Ash Ervin, who recently turned 21, continues to seamlessly fill in at goal defense in superstar Courtney Bruce’s injury-enforced absence, while Diamonds skipper Liz Watson’s playmaking at wing attack was dynamic.

“I just wanted to be as impactful as I can,” said Ervin, who lowered star Firebirds shooter Donnell Wallam’s colors, racking up eight deflections, four intercepts and four rebounds.

“Nelly (Wallam) is amazing and strong and I just wanted to do whatever I could to get my feet moving and keep my hands up.

“I think I did make some impact.”

The Lightning’s frontcourt trio of Watson, Cara Koenen and captain Steph Fretwell all burst out of the blocks, capitalizing on the Firebirds’ penalty-plagued defense to give the home side a 21-15 quarter-time cushion.

Wallam showed glimpses of his best against Ervin in the second period as Queensland closed the gap to 37-33 at the long break.

Leesa Mi Mi lit up First Nations Round with a standout performance for the Lightning. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Sunshine Coast’s Indigenous midcourter Leesa Mi Mi lit up First Nations Round in the third period, combining with Watson and Fretwell for a whopping 35 feeds and 21 assists for the quarter to give the ascendancy, emphatically, back to the Lightning.

Koenen was assured in the circle, passing the half-century, while Mi Mi pressed on with her purple patch in the fourth term.

Meanwhile, young Ervin’s relentlessness and fast hands at the other end ensured there would be no last-ditch Firebirds comeback.