Back-to-back wins lift Stars
Showing their growing resilience, the Northern Stars fended off a desperate SKYCITY Mystics to post a 58-55 win in the bottom of the table clash between the two northern teams in Auckland today.
Learning from a run of several close losses this season, the Stars led from start to finish to secure their second successive win while repelling numerous threatening comebacks from the Mystics.
With one win apiece between the pair, the winner of the Barfoot & Thompson Northern Challenge Trophy will now be decided on July 22.
With a personal haul of 48 goals from 54 attempts, young shooter Maia Wilson delivered another standout performance for the Stars while defenders Ama Agbezee and Kate Burley chipped in with timely turnovers at key times.
Jamie Hume got the start at goal attack for the Mystics while captain Anna Harrison lined up in the wing defence bib.
The Stars made some adjustments to their starting seven with Holly Fowler continuing her reinvention as a centre while England captain Agbeze slotted in at goal defence.
Buoyed by their last start win, it was the Stars who got the better of the opening quarter. The ever-reliable Wilson continued her impressive form with slick connections and accuracy under the Stars hoop while the Mystics took time to find their links on attack.
The Mystics were guilty of too many early errors, the Stars making them pay in getting away to a handy lead.
Scoring the last three goals of the quarter, the Mystics came back strongly to leave the Stars with a 15-12 lead at the first break.
Dynamic Mystics wing attack Elisapeta Toeava gave a fine showing of her exciting range of skills on the resumption but the Stars absorbed the comeback to once against stretch out their advantage.
Captain Grace Kara led the charge for the Stars, controlling proceedings on attack as her team pulled out by six. A knee injury, which forced her off the court, to impressive young wing defence Fa’amu Ioane prompted a reshuffle for the Stars with the experienced Anna Thompson coming on to centre and Fowler moving to wing defence.
The injury did not distract her team-mates, the Stars holding on to their lead before the Mystics produced another strong finish. Hume had a busy quarter, her decisive play and accurate shooting helping the Mystics stay well in touch while Michaela Sokolich-Beatson was a prominent figure on defence.
It all helped the Mystics narrow the gap to two when the Stars led 28-26 heading into the main break.
With a big lift defensively, the Mystics mounted a serious assault in the opening stages of the third quarter, quickly levelling the scores as the teams engaged in a tight arm wrestle.
However, as they had done throughout the match, the Stars withstood the barrage, their short, sharp, patient play paying dividends. Experienced goal attack Paula Griffin played a key role for the Stars, her clever play helping set up Wilson time and again under the post.
Five unanswered goals late in the piece helped the Stars gain some breathing space when they hit the last turn with a handy 45-39 lead.