MYSTICS CLAIM EMPHATIC WIN OVER STEEL TO HONOUR FITZPATRICK’S BIG 150
Saturday 6 May, 2023
The Trusts Arena, Henderson
Full time MG Mystics 65 – Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel 55
The MG Mystics have claimed an emphatic win over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel 65 to 55 in front of a delighted home crowd who turned out in force to celebrate an extra special occasion for their team’s skipper.
Captain Sulu Fitzpatrick ran onto court for her 150th national league match just one week after returning from a knee injury and was a dominating presence in the defensive end.
Coming off the back of their highest ever score in the ANZ Premiership last week over the Tactix, a plucky Mystics side roared out to a 10-goal lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Mystics made it look effortless, moving the ball through court like butter and with the telepathic connection between wing-attack Peta Toeava and goal-shooter Grace Nweke instantly in-sync.
Familiar defensive duo Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick restricted the Steel’s shooters, keeping them to the outer perimeters of the circle and forcing them to take long-range shots early on.
Steel mid-courters Kate Heffernan and Sam Winders both applied strong defensive pressure through court, each coming away with an intercept for their efforts and slowing the Mystics’ pace at periods.
The second quarter saw the Mystics’ lead grow to 12, despite a strong outing from Steel goal-keeper Kate Burley who did her utmost to cut-off the feed into Nweke. Burley’s outstanding vertical jump awarded her some impressive rebounds and deflections, but it wasn’t enough to swing the momentum in her team’s favour.
Karaka and Fitzpatrick continued to make the Steel work tirelessly for every ball in their shooting end, however goal-shooter Saviour Tui began to find a way through towards half-time thanks to some sharp feeds and slick footwork that placed her nicely under the post.
Mystics centre Katie Te Ao provided a reliable connection down court, letting the ball go into her shooters and linking in nicely with wing-defence Michaela Sokolich-Beatson to create plenty of turnover opportunities.
The Steel waited until the third quarter to turn up the heat, emerging from the half-time break hungry to claw back the deficit. Goal-keeper Burley was on the hunt right from the restart whistle, picking off intercepts and rebounds that helped the Steel to come back to within striking distance.
With Mystics mid-courter Tayla Earle out with illness, replacement Holly Mather came on at centre to replace Katie Te Ao part way through the third quarter and Carys Stythe pulled on the goal-defence bib in place of Karaka.
Solid defensive pressure from the Steel in the centre third forced a held ball turnover and another opportunity to get points on the board.
Goal-shooter Saviour Tui pulled off a remarkable shot as she fell out of court to give her side a boost and they looked to have the Mystics up against the ropes, bringing the score to within 8 going into the final quarter.
Fitzpatrick moved to the bench for the fourth quarter, with Karaka coming back on at goal-defence, Stythe moving to goal-keeper and Te Ao coming back on at centre.
Eager to bring it home in honour of Fitzpatrick’s remarkable 150-game milestone, the Mystics upped the ante once more in the fourth quarter, stretching the final score out to finish at 65 to 55.