Stars end their season on a positive note
Flying their flag with pride, the Northern Stars finished the season in style when posting a well-deserved 65-59 win over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Auckland today.
The respective 93 and 92 percent success rates of shooters Maia Wilson and Paula Griffin combined with the growing contribution of promising young goalkeeper Kate Burley, to grab vital turnover ball, proved the difference in helping the Stars secure their fourth win and highest score in the last round of the regular season.
It was a close, entertaining match throughout, the Stars greater urgency and hunger down the home straight leaving the Steel plenty of food for thought heading into the knockout phase.
Despite the match having no bearing on the Finals Series make-up, there was still plenty for both teams to play for. With the most bonus points of any other team in the competition, the Stars have had a number of close games and were playing for pride.
The Steel, on the other hand, will host the Elimination Final on August 8 and were focused on retaining their recent high standards.
The Stars went in with a settled line-up while playmaking goal attack Olivia Bates got a start for the Steel after shooter Jen O’Connell missed the match with an ear complaint.
Both sides produced a lively first quarter, little separated the pair as they delivered tidy and efficient service to their respective shooting ends. Wilson and her opposite Te Paea Selby-Rickit provided the finishing touches under the hoop.
As a result, there were no surprises when the pair headed to the first break locked up at 15-all.
The Steel made a slick start on the resumption, in-form wing attack Gina Crampton helping the Steel shine with their fluency, ball movement and length on attack. Both teams had their moments with neither able to completely stamp their mark.
Continuing to make an impression, rangy defender Burley was again on hand to gain valuable turnover ball for the Stars but it was the Steel who kept their noses in front when leading 31-28 at the main break.
The plucky Stars showed their never-say-die attitude when challenging the Steel’s renowned patience and measured approach with great success during the third stanza.
A lift in defensive intensity, with Burley remaining a prominent feature, and Ama Agbeze adding valuable assistance helped the Stars shut down the volume reaching Selby-Rickit’s hands. At the other end goal attack Griffin played a key cameo in taking the heat off Wilson under the hoop.
Confident from range, Griffin helped momentum swing the home team’s way when the Stars took a 48-46 lead into the last turn after a high scoring third term.