Sharp shooting Mystics return to the winner’s circle
Spearheaded by teenaged shooting sensation Grace Nweke, the Northern Mystics clinched a pulsating 47-42 win over The Good Oil Tactix at the Auckland Netball Centre on Friday.
With both teams having 53 attempts at goal it was the sure shooting of the unflappable Nweke, with 38 from 40, who got the Mystics over the line. It was a classic top-line outing between the second-placed Mystics and third-placed Tactix.
Scoring six goals on the trot midway through the last quarter, it looked like job done for the Mystics as they took a seven-goal lead but the Tactix produced a stirring fightback to keep the tension high and everyone on their toes.
Pushed all the way, the Mystics remained on course to make a return to the winner’s circle while the Tactix were rewarded for their efforts with a losing bonus point after finishing within five.
Mystics coach Helene Wilson stuck with her trusty formula of giving teenaged Asher Grapes the start at goal attack as both teams went with familiar starting sevens while presenting tantalising match-ups across the court.
It was the Tactix who were out of the blocks quickest, setting the tone as the high-paced intensity remained from start to finish. Scoring three in a row with Te Paea Selby-Rickit taking on plenty of work after Ellie Bird was double-marked, the goal attack started with a hiss and a roar to drop a clutch of shots from range to give the southerners an early buffer.
Livewire Mystics midcourt duo Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle found their feet, employing their tried and true formula of quickly-released ball to their shooting target Nweke as the northerners levelled up at 8-all.
It was the Tactix who clawed back the initiative on the back of strong shooting and the defensive exploits of Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau as they edged to a 14-11 first quarter lead.
That prompted changes for the Mystics with Saviour Tui replacing Grapes and Courtney Elliott coming off the bench and into wing defence for Australian import Emily Burgess.
Both sets of defences showed their class as scoring opportunities were denied on several occasions at each end on the resumption.
Once again, the Mystics quickly levelled up with Earle and Toeava providing a quickfire service to Nweke. But with the tallest player on the court, 1.96m Bird, showing good movement and positioning under the hoop, the Tactix pushed back into the lead.
Hard-working wing attack Erikana Pedersen was a strong contributor in directing Bird into the right places but lapses at the other end, opened the door for the Mystics to nail the last three scoring opportunities. With Nweke returning a blemish-free 21/21, the Mystics headed into the main break with the scores on even terms at 24-all.
The riveting contest continued through an absorbing and high-quality third quarter where the exploits of dynamic in-circle defensive pairing of Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick helped the Mystics nudge in front.
The Tactix showed they were far from done, Fakahokotau, giving away 11cm to Nweke, providing her own piece of magic to help the southerners get back on level terms with one minute of the stanza remaining.
However, two quickfire goals had the Mystics back in front when leading 35-33 at the last turn.