MYSTICS SECURE FIRST WIN OF THE SEASON
An improved Northern Mystics pounced on a storming start to clinch their first win of the ANZ Premiership, posting a 64-58 win over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Auckland on Saturday.
In a high-scoring showpiece, the Mystics rebounded from a bonus point loss in the opening round to produce a telling first quarter from which the valiant Steel never recovered.
After scoring an upset result over The Good Oil Tactix, the Steel couldn’t replicate their heroics of the previous week, finding life not so easy against the Mystics who held the upper hand throughout.
Strong in all areas of the court, the Mystics had a peerless performer in the shape of shooter Grace Nweke, the towering figure relentless under the hoop with a match-winning 56 goals from 60 attempts.
Also on hand for the first time was Mystics assistant coach Rob Wright, the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble enabling the Australian to lend his valuable input from the side-line as compared to being a virtual contributor up until now.
To their credit, the young Steel team refused to throw in the towel, competing willingly to win the second half with England import George Fisher being a particular standout in returning a perfect 42 from 42 shooting record.
After a goal-for-goal start, the early signs of a tight tussle quickly evaporated when the Mystics burst into overdrive midway through the opening stanza.
Building in intensity while showing a calm and accurate intent on attack, midcourters Peta Toeava and Tayla Earle delivered a seamless supply of ball to shooting kingpin Nweke as the stream of ball heading into the circle increased.
A similar intent transpired at the other end of the court with captain Sulu Fitzpatrick and Kate Burley shutting down the Steel’s scoring options, a seven-goal unanswered streak putting the Mystics in the box seat when they headed into the first break with a healthy 19-11 lead.
The Steel competed on level terms through the second term but could make little headway in regards to the deficit.
Shooters Fisher and Tiana Metuarau found some space on attack but did not get enough ball in their hands. Defender Taneisha Fifita managed to add a disruptive influence in the Mystics circle but it was the home team who kept their foot on the pedal, allowing their opponents little opportunity to snatch a march.
Missing just the one shot, the lack of ball was telling for the southerners, having just 28 attempts during the first half compared to the Mystics 40 as the home team hit the halftime break with a 36-27 advantage.
The visitors made their push during an absorbing third quarter as the Mystics’ accuracy dropped off in the face of a tenacious Steel.
Metuarau rolled her sleeves up, getting more involved under the hoop to ease the load on Fisher while injecting herself successfully into the attacking momentum.
However, there was no completely stopping the ball getting into 1.93m Nweke’s hands, the teenaged talent remaining rock solid under the Mystics hoop as her goal tally continued to climb.
With the Steel refusing to go away, the Mystics injected experienced England defender Ama Agbeze into the fray with Fitzpatrick moving up to goal defence.
Having slightly the better of the third stanza, the Steel made up some lost ground but still had plenty ahead of them after the Mystics took a 48-41 lead into the last break.