MYSTICS GO TOP OF THE TABLE WITH WIN OVER STARS
The Northern Mystics have wrapped up the Barfoot and Thompson Northern Challenge with an eight-goal win over the Robinhood Stars and with it, launched themselves to the top of the ANZ Premiership ladder.
On the back of a stand-out second half, the Mystics beat the Stars 65-57 at Pulman Arena in Auckland tonight.
They also confirmed their credentials as ANZ Premiership contenders showing composure in a match worthy of a league final and relieving the Stars of their perch at the top of the table, a position the Stars had held since Round 2.
Mystics Assistant Coach Rob Wright said it was a good one to win, beating the table toppers on their home court.
“We’re nowhere near the finished product but we just keep get a little bit better each week. This competition is so even if you don’t show up ready, you’ll get knocked off. “
Wright was pleased to see goal attack Filda Vui impress from the bench.
“I thought Filda worked her way into the game nicely and yet again Sulu (Fitzpatrick) showed what a world-class player she is coming up with some really crucial ball in the last quarter.”
There was just the one surprise in the starting line-ups with Amorangi Malesala getting the nod in the purple goal attack bib as Stars coach Kiri Wills took a conservative approach with regular attacker Jamie Hume who had suffered a shoulder injury in the week leading into the match.
Both teams settled into a good rhythm from the opening whistles – strong attacking drives, accurate shooting radars and tight defence in a quarter which went goal-for-goal.
The Stars forced the first turnover through their unit defensive pressure but failed to convert with the Mystics flexing their own muscle on defence – a telling sign of the titanic battle ahead.
It was a new-look Peta Toeava who stepped on court for the key Round 11 match having shaved her hair in support of a family member. But there was no mistaking Toeava’s tell-tale flair on attack and pinpoint feeds into shooter Grace Nweke early on.
A couple of misplaced balls on attack opened the door for the Stars to edge ahead and they delivered to go into the first break with a 17-15 advantage.
They went on a three-goal run to stretch their lead to five goals before the Mystics countered with a defensive strike of their own to level the scores at 22-22 in a fast-paced second stanza.
With some new direction from Mystics Head Coach Helene Wilson, defender Kate Burley ensured that lead did not last returning to the court with the eye for the ball and snaffling three gains for her team.
A rolled ankle from Bailey Mes forced a personnel change with just under five minutes left in the first half – Vui injected into the game to run out the half as the visitors went into the main break trailing 28-29.
Mystics centre Tayla Earle, who missed the three-goal win over the Stars in Round 8 as she recovered from a head knock, made her presence felt in equal measures on attack and defence with three gains and 25 feeds, but it was the strength and shooting accuracy of Nweke, landing 55 of her team’s goals, which earned the teenager the Player of the Match award.
The first cracks in the Stars attacking armour started to appear in the third spell with Burley, who in conjunction with Fitzpatrick and Fa’amu Ioane, tightened the screws.
A heavy fall from Burley with five minutes left in the third quarter saw a change to the blue defensive wall with Agbeze taking on the keeping role and Fitzpatrick moving out to goal defence. It did nothing to change the Mystics’ intent as they turned around their one-goal halftime deficit into a 48-44 lead with 15 minutes to play.
Vui again replaced Mes for the fourth quarter while Wilson maintained the same defence line which finished the third spell.
Trailing by seven goals the Stars also went to the bench with Harrison moving out to goal defence and Oceane Maihi coming on at goal keeper but there was little to stem the flow of blue ball on attack.
Official result and stats:
Robinhood Stars: 57
Northern Mystics: 65
Shooting stats – Stars:
Maia Wilson 35/41 (85%)
Amorangi Malesala 22/27 (82%)
Shooting stats – Mystics:
Grace Nweke 55/59 (93%)
Filda Vui 7/8 (88%)
Bailey Mes 3/4 (75%)
MVP: Grace Nweke (Mystics)