Stars deliver boil-over of the season to upset Mystics
The Northern Stars finally delivered on their promise to post an upset 59-53 win over neighbours the SKYCITY Mystics in Auckland on Wednesday.
Fighting to stay in touch for a top three spot, the Mystics had the most to lose, but lost their composure when it mattered most while also missing out on what could prove to be a crucial bonus point at season’s-end.
With their backs to the wall, the Mystics pegged back a seven-goal deficit in a courageous last quarter fightback but the Stars held firm, regaining control in the closing minutes to seal their third win.
The Stars welcomed back Fiji goal attack Afa Rusivakula from a three-week injury break while Mystics goal defence Storm Purvis got her first start since Round 2 as the teams set about delivering a momentum-swinging first quarter.
Showing much-improved accuracy and enterprise on attack, the Stars gave a strong account of themselves to match the Mystics in every facet.
Mystics lost dynamic wing attack Elispeta Toeava to injury after four minutes which stalled their momentum a little, the favourites unable to gain any ascendancy in the opening exchanges.
Both teams enjoyed little runs of unanswered goals but were soon pegged back. Stars centre Fa’amu Ioane had a strong quarter, regularly finding in-form shooter Maia Wilson, whose accuracy helped the South Auckland team take a 15-13 lead, just the second time they have led at the first break this season.
The Mystics took little time to level up on the resumption, the game once again ebbing and flowing through an absorbing second stanza.
Holding sway with their long game, where shooters Bailey Mes and Maria Tutaia executed impressively, the Mystics looked likely to steal a march. But with Rusivakula a strong presence on attack and the switch of Kayla Cullen to goal defence for the Stars, helped stem the flow.
Again, the teams went toe-to-toe, the teams picking up defensive turnovers with neither able to make a decisive move. A heavy penalty count against the Mystics helped the Stars stay well in the contest when they trailed 29-28 at the main break.
With captain Leana de Bruin at one end of the court and Wilson at the other applying the inspiration, the Stars showed their hunger, chasing everything while competing gamely to put the Mystics off their stride.
Goal and wing attacks respectively, Malia Vaka and Emma Iversen made strong impacts for the Stars while Cullen and de Bruin held the Mystics star shooting duo in check.
Growing in confidence , it was the Stars who finished the stronger, making the most of their turnovers to hit the last break with a narrow 45-43 lead.