Steel hold nerve in gritty clash with Pulse
Holding their nerve, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel have retained their unbeaten record in the ANZ Premiership fending off a gutsy challenge from Te Wānanga O Raukawa Pulse, 63-50, in Invercargill tonight.
In their second game in 27 hours, the Steel showed they have the stamina and experience to withstand back-to-back challenges, and to take control in the closing stages.
The Pulse put up a spirited fight, particularly in the middle two quarters of the clash, by cutting down the Steel’s options on attack. And once again teenage shooter Tiana Metuarau took another step up in responsibility – this time making the lion’s share of the Pulse’s shots on goal, and bagging 24 of them.
When Jhaniele Fowler-Reid missed her first shot at goal in the match, and the Pulse took a 2-0 lead, it looked as though the Steel would be guilty of the same stuttering start that they’d had against the Mystics the day before.But this time it was barely a blip, and a run of seven straight goals halfway through the quarter put the home side comfortably in control, leading 18-12 at the first break.
Gina Crampton and Shannon Francois claimed the midcourt as their own, making light work of driving the ball through court, while the Pulse attack had a panicked period and couldn't seem to get the ball cleanly to Cat Tuivaiti (playing in her 150th combined national league match) and Metuarau.
But the second quarter was a different story, as the Pulse defence led by Katrina Grant and Phoenix Karaka became more mobile and more effective, repeatedly disrupting the flow of ball into Fowler-Reid.
At the opposite end, teenage goal attack Metuarau stepped up and shot the majority of the Pulse’s goals, ending the half with a respectable 13 from 15.
The Pulse closed to within three, but the Steel tightened up their defence through court and forced the Pulse into making some miss-timed passes in the closing stages of the half. With the Steel back on track, they took a 31-24 advantage into halftime.
Both sides battled for supremacy in the third spell,and ended up sharing the honours, 15-all.
But the Steel’s 46-39 lead proved to be a building block for the last 15 minutes, when they held their composure and pushed the score out of the Pulse’s reach.Again Fowler-Reid dominated the scoring, falling just one goal short of a half-century.