Clinical Steel march on
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel showed no signs of slowing down after posting a masterful 73-51 win over the Northern Stars in Manukau on Wednesday.
The Stars were unable to apply the brakes to the Steel’s high-scoring rampages that have become a feature this season, the visitors now surpassing 70 goals in all of their five outings.
Towering Steel shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid showed her value to the team when taking a third quarter spell on the bench, giving the Stars a short-lived opportunity to compete on level terms. The Jamaican import still managed to pot an impressive 45 from 46 goals during her three-quarters on court. Apart from that 15-minute window, it was all one-way traffic.
The Stars showed plenty of intent early on, getting away to a purposeful start and testing their opponents defensively. It was, however, short-lived, the familiarity of having played together for a long time shining through for the Steel.
Despite a fine effort from teenaged shooter Maia Wilson with her positioning and accuracy under the hoop, too many errors blighted the Stars momentum. The Steel didn’t need a second invitation, centre Shannon Francois a big influence through the midcourt with shooting target Fowler-Reid on song from the outset and helping guide her team to an impressive 22-12 lead at the first break.
It was more of the same on the resumption, the Stars unable to stem the flood of precision ball from Gina Crampton and Francois into the Steel circle. Te Paea Selby-Rickit provided the subtle touches for Fowler-Reid, the pair working in perfect unison as the scoreline mounted.
Well-drilled and almost error-free, the Steel and had an equally influential second quarter as they galloped away to a 42-23 lead at the main break.
The Steel made wholesale changes for the second half, the most significant movement being Fowler-Reid taking a seat on the bench. Captain Wendy Frew (in her 150th combined national league match) at wing defence was the only player to stay in the same position as youngsters Jamie Hume (goal attack) and Abby Erwood (goal defence) were injected into the game.
Crampton, Francois and the Selby-Rickit sisters all assumed different positions.
The absence of Fowler-Reid, in particular, was compelling, the Stars producing a competitive 15 minutes in winning the quarter 15-12 with defenders Kayla Cullen and Sulu Fitzpatrick prominent in picking up a number of intercepts and deflections.
However, there was no real threat to the Steel, who went into the last break with a 54-38 lead.