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Wilson shoots Stars closer to finals, spurning Steel

Wilson shoots Stars closer to finals, spurning Steel

Guided by an almost perfect shooting performance by Maia Wilson, the Robinhood Stars have taken a stride closer to the ANZ Premiership Finals Series with a 58-47 victory over the winless Ascot Park Hotel Steel in Invercargill.

Wilson continued to produce a career-best shooting this season with a 98 percent accuracy – 42 from 43 – converting superb ball from the Stars feeders.

History will show it was the Steel’s 17th loss in a row – the longest losing run in the franchise’s history. Yet they were still in the game at halftime, down by four but remaining competitive, and even took out the final quarter.

But the Stars completely owned the ‘championship’ third quarter, winning those 15 minutes by eight goals, mentally wearing down a home side desperate for victory in 2023.

The Stars can now focus on their final regular season match next Sunday against the MG Mystics to secure their place in the top three.

With Australian Diamonds coach Stacey Marinkovich in the bleachers as a keen observer, intensive defensive pressure forced the Steel into early handling errors, and the Stars raced out to an 8-2 lead.

But the Steel responded with a run of four, after Kate Burley and Te Huinga Reo Selby Rickit combined well to frustrate the Stars shooters and Saviour Tui again on song in the shooting circle, nicely fed by her shooting companion, Georgia Heffernan.

They closed the gap to 14-11 at the end of the first spell, and soon into the second quarter got within one of the Stars.

Having brought Jamie Hume on at goal attack after the break, to replace the off-kilter Amorangi Malesala, the Stars pushed ahead again. Player of the match Mila Reuelu-Buchanan (with 56 circle edge feeds for the match) and fellow midcourter Gina Crampton, found Wilson inside the circle with quick and accurate hands.

But the Steel were sticking with them, and with Burley making four gains and four deflections, they were only four goals off the pace at halftime.

And then the Stars turned on the afterburners. They ramped up their defence starting from Holly Fowler and Elle Temu making it increasingly difficult for the Steel to get the ball in to their shooters - and quickly switched onto the offensive whenever they nabbed turnover ball.

Down 47-35 at the final turn, the Steel introduced Courtney Elliott at goal defence to try to rattle the Stars shooters - which was when Wilson missed her first shot of the match.

At one point the Stars had 15 goals on the Steel, but the home team were determined to salvage pride and brought it back to win the final stanza 12-11 – Tui ending with an impressive 35 from 41.