Tactix go down fighting in extra time with Mystics
In a valiant attempt to stay alive in the ANZ Premiership, the Trident Home Tactix have ended their season fighting, losing the final game of the regular season in an extra time thriller, 64-61, to the MG Mystics in Auckland.
A goal right on the final whistle after 60 minutes from Tactix shooter Aliyah Dunn tied up the game at 57-all, forcing an extra period of play. But a buoyant Mystics had the final say - through the sharp hunting instincts of Phoenix Karaka and the eagle eye of Peta Toeava.
The Tactix, fresh from their upset victory over the Pulse on Saturday, knew they were facing a tough equation to stay in the competition. Although there were numerous permutations based on how many goals the Mystics scored, the Tactix needed to win by at least 12 to have a chance of leap-frogging the Robinhood Stars into Sunday’s Elimination Final with Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse.
Never losing the desire to pull off another upset, the Tactix fought to the bitter end. They took the lead for the first time in the match early in the fourth quarter, with the wise heads of Jane Watson in defence and Te Paea Selby-Rickit in attack stepping up.
For a player on restricted minutes coming back from injury, Watson was a firecracker – putting Grace Nweke under huge pressure with her shots in the final three quarters of normal time. Kate Lloyd was given the goal keep bib in the Tactix starting seven, with Watson restricted to 45 minutes play.
For the second day running, the Mystics had another strong start - putting three points on the board before the Tactix scored, and were quickly out to a 6-1 lead with some clean steals in the midcourt blocking off ball to the Tactix shooters.
Tayla Earle and Toeava worked together smartly to thread the ball through court at breakneck speed and find Nweke waiting under the post.
Finding themselves down 18-13 at the end of the quarter, the Tactix rung some interesting changes. Watson’s injection into the game at the start of the second spell – and moving Karin Burger out to wing defence - immediately made it harder for the Mystics to work the ball into Nweke; Watson keeping the circle constantly mobile.
Selby-Rickit marshalled the Tactix attack, shooting strongly from range, and supporting Aliyah Dunn with the load; the pair both shooting at 93 percent in the first half. Kimiora Poi continued to display the vision that’s made her the league’s most accurate feeder this season.
It played out goal for goal for much of the quarter, with only two goals separating the sides, until a spectacular flying intercept from Watson, somehow keeping herself in court, broke that rhythm.
For a second time, a Tactix goal was a split second too late after the quarter-time buzzer, and they went into halftime down 29-27.
The Tactix continued to put pressure on the Mystics attack in the third quarter, and just when they were about to draw even, a smart defensive huddle from the Mystics turned the momentum around and it was back to a five-goal advantage to the home team, which soon became seven.
And it was the Karaka who had a hand in everything, from upsetting the Tactix flow to their shooters, to firing the ball into Nweke from long range.
With the score 46-43 in the Mystics’ favour going into the final quarter, and Burger back in the defensive circle with Watson, the Tactix finally got on top on the scoreboard and kept fighting to push the game into extra time. Dunn and Selby-Rickit shared the shooting load right to the end with powerful effect.
The Mystics took control again in that period – crucial pressure for them going into the grand final with almost two weeks to prepare.