Vital win hands Mystics the points and trophy
The SKYCITY Mystics kept their Finals Series hopes alive when they secured an all-important and decisive 70-52 win over the Northern Stars during Super Sunday in Auckland today.
With not just vital points at stake, there was also pride on the line in the battle of Auckland, resulting in double delight for the Mystics who won the inaugural Barfoot & Thompson Northern Challenge trophy contested between the two teams after the pair came into the game at one win apiece.
The Mystics had too much finishing power for the Stars with the international depth of talent in their ranks proving decisive.
It was a predictable seven who started the match for the Stars, including temporary replacement player Anna Thompson at centre and Holly Fowler lining up at wing defence. The Mystics tinkered with both ends of their court, Storm Purvis getting another start at goalkeeper while the accurate Tera-Maria Amani got a rare start in the goal shooter’s bib.
Both teams started at a fast clip, going goal-for-goal throughout an entertaining opening stanza. There was plenty of dazzle on attack with both sets of shooters get their hands on a steady supply of ball.
Goalkeeper Kate Burley was prominent at one end of the court in picking up a couple of handy intercepts while a long-range goal from shooter Maia Wilson helped the Stars snatch a 16-15 lead at the first break.
The injection of Maria Folau at goal attack and rangy defender Anna Harrison coming on at goal defence later in the second term allowed the Mystics to gain the momentum in a strong 15-minute spell.
Folau was quick to re-establish her connections with long-time shooting partner Bailey Mes as the Mystics attack line started to find its flow. Samon Nathan provided the effective link through the midcourt, more ball and greater accuracy helping her side build a handy buffer.
Looking for some spark, the Stars introduced up-and-coming midcourter Christina Oscar to wing attack while Grace Kara went to centre which added attacking impetus.
However, it was the Mystics who reaped the benefits of a dominant second quarter to gain the upper hand when forging a 34-27 lead at the main break.
Led by captain Kara there was plenty of purposeful intent from the Stars on the resumption, her strong driving play and deft movement and accuracy from her shooters Wilson and Paula Griffin helping reduce the deficit.
Five goals on the trot got the Stars right back in the contest when they trailed by just four but the Mystics showed their ability to absorb and counter-punch. The growing influence of Folau was telling, Mes feeding off the fluency of ball coming her way with a key contribution under the hoop.
Playing with increasing confidence, the rhythm and timing from the Mystics was evident when they seamlessly took a strong grip on the game and a 49-42 lead at the last break.