Dominant Stars book home Elimination Final
The Robinhood Stars will host the Elimination Final on Wednesday 8 June after a clinical 68-49 win over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Auckland on Thursday.
The Stars extended their advantage at each of the breaks in a confidence-boosting preparation ahead of meeting either the MG Mystics or Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse next week for a place in the Grand Final.
Needing extra time to complete a two-goal win over the Steel just five days ago, the Stars were a class above their opponents on this occasion. All areas of their court played a part for a rampant Stars in crafting a season-defining performance.
It was a tough day at the office for the Steel who never got going, lacking their usual drive and resilience in failing to make an impression against an ever-improving Stars outfit.
The reschedule Round 4 match was the last of the regular season for the Stars, who were back on court after playing just 24 hours earlier.
Missing their last outing with an ankle injury, goal defence Elle Temu returned to the Stars starting seven in an otherwise unchanged line-up. For the Steel, training partner Kate Hartley again assumed the wing defence role in the continued absence of an injured Renee Savai’inaea.
Showing their blueprint for the upcoming Finals Series, the home side were all over the Steel in the opening stanza. Midcourter Gina Crampton and shooter Maia Wilson showed their growing form of recent weeks with sharp starts.
At the other end, the Stars defensive unit of Holly Fowler, Temu and Anna Harrison had their opponents on the back foot early on, time and again forcing errors and leaving the Steel high and dry in terms of scoring opportunities.
Five unanswered goals while leaving the Steel scoreless for almost seven minutes pushed the Stars into a position of comfort, prompting the introduction of shooter Saviour Tui and defender Sarahpheinna Woulf for the visitors.
The changes paid off, a strong finish by the Steel helping reduce the margin to a 13-9 advantage to the Stars at the first break.
With more ball getting into the hands of prolific shooter George Fisher, the Steel made the perfect start on the resumption. Three goals on the trot pulled the visitors’ back to within two but simple errors continued to plague the Steel.
The Stars needed no second invitation, Harrison and Temu gobbling up turnover ball while the Crampton/Wilson connection continued to flourish as the home side put their foot down.
With the momentum going their way, the Stars skipped out to a healthy 31-22 lead at the main break leaving the Steel with plenty to ponder.
The Steel continued to make personnel changes, the visitors constructing a much more competitive third quarter but making inroads against the well-drilled Stars proved difficult.
The home side continued to impress on attack with goal attack Jamie Hume chipping in to complement Crampton with the slick service to Wilson. Stars captain, Wilson, retained her stellar form with a dominant showing, her movement and accuracy being key features.
The Stars showed few chinks in their armour, ball security being top of the list and leaving the Steel few opportunities to pocket any gains. The Steel struggled to break the Stars hold on the game, finding little flow or rhythm, the floodgates opening in the final few minutes of the spell as the home side rocketed into a 48-36 lead at the last turn.