Stars out-hustled by racing Pulse
In the sage words of their coach, Kiri Wills, the Northern Stars have been “out-hustled” by the unbeaten Te Wānanga O Raukawa Central Pulse, 61-50, at Pulman Arena in Papakura tonight.
The Stars were without their pocket rocket midcourter Temepara Bailey, who was nursing a quad strain, and her absence was telling. She still had some influence in her other role, as assistant coach, on the Stars bench, but it wasn’t quite enough to topple the in-form Pulse.
A second quarter rush from the Pulse, who outscored the Stars by nine goals in those 15 minutes, was ultimately key to their victory. And goal shoot Aliyah Dunn, the match MVP, was almost unstoppable under the hoop, shooting 43 from 45 (96 percent) and keeping up her record as the most accurate shooter in the ANZ Premiership competition.
There was little to separate the two teams in the first 15 minutes, with the scoring ticking over virtually goal for goal. The Stars had their opportunities to pull away after strong defensive work, especially from wing defence Kayla Cullen and captain Leana de Bruin, only to lose possession at the shooting end.
It was 11-all at the first quarter break, with both sides initially proving a little rusty with their shooting.
The Pulse ramped it up at the start of the second spell, quickly taking an eight-goal lead.
Their reunited shooting combination, Dunn and Ameliaranne Ekenasio – who was back on court after sitting out last week’s match on concussion watch – came to the fore. They were smartly set up with quality ball from Whitney Souness, who showed great balance and timing around the circle.
At the other end, Katrina Rore and Sulu Fitzpatrick were giving a masterclass in defence, successfully rattling the Stars attack. The Stars were picking up plenty of ball with deflections on defence, but without Bailey commanding the charge forward on court, they struggled to convert it into points on the board.
Down 29-20 at halftime, and needing more punch around the circle edge, Stars coach Wills turned to Tori Kolose at centre, and introduced import Charlee Hodges at goal attack.
Straight into the third quarter, the Stars scored three goals in a row bringing them back to within seven, with Kolose combining well with the hard-working Mila Reulu-Buchanan at wing attack.
But the fightback was short-lived as the Pulse poured on five consecutive goals, committing to get their hands on every pass, and leaped out to a 12-goal advantage.
As the quarter wore down, the Stars began to find a little more order with Maia Wilson receiving cleaner ball, and they finished the spell still nine behind, 45-36.
The Stars went to the last woman on their bench, wing defence Kate Burley, to make a difference in the last quarter, while the Pulse’s original seven remained on court. But once it was clear the Pulse had it in the bag, they were able to bring on all of their bench to give each one important playing minutes.