Mystics break their duck against Steel
A dominant third quarter helped push the SKYCITY Mystics up the points table after they posted an important 62-57 win over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Auckland tonight.
Playing their first game in 10 days after beating the table-topping Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse in their last outing, the Mystics made it a profitable double with their win over the second-placed Steel.
The Steel had won the previous two encounters between the pair this season while the Mystics made it their first ever win against the southerners in the ANZ Premiership.
Ultimately let down by an indifferent third quarter, the Steel showed all their renown fighting spirit to chase stubbornly in the run home but with their noses in front, the Mystics showed their resolve to clinch the points.
With the Sydney-domiciled Maria Folau getting her first start of the season, the Mystics got away to a sizzling start to build an early lead. But in a familiar trend throughout the game, the score swung back and forth with neither team able to take the initiative.
The Mystics defensive line was active early requiring plenty of patience from the southerners but both teams delivered an entertaining and productive first 15 minutes.
Twice building three-goal buffers, the Mystics were caught each time by the determined Steel who took the lead for the first time late in the piece while holding on for a slim 14-13 margin at the first break.
Goalkeeper Phoenix Karaka was a shining light defensively while the livewire Elisapeta Toeava produced the sparkle on attack. Ball speed, accuracy and slick movement were all in sync for the home team who looked set to take off.
As is their way, the Steel, however, had other ideas and just as quickly were back on level terms. Te Paea Selby-Rickit got through a high work rate outside the circle, young defender Courtney Elliott was in the thick of action and with the ball in her hands, shooter Jennifer O’Connell was on song under the hoop.
In what is becoming a habit, shooter Bailey Mes landed a goal on the halftime buzzer to help the Mystics land a 29-28 lead.
With more disruption coming from the Mystics impressive defenders, it was the home team who made a decisive move on the resumption. Seven unanswered goals helped take the sting out of the Steel as the Mystics surged to a 10-goal lead.
The Steel had trouble clearing the Mystics suffocating defensive wall, the home team replying with seamless efficiency in their through-court movement. Toeava provided the class with her precision feeding while Folau and Mes added the finishing touches.
A five-goal run by the Steel helped limit the damage but it was the Mystics who held a handy 48-41 lead at the last turn.