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Stars continue to set the pace with fourth straight win

Stars continue to set the pace with fourth straight win

Weathering an early storm, the Robinhood Stars remained unbeaten after piling on the pressure to complete a comfortable 59-45 win over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Auckland on Sunday.

The arm-wrestle on show during the opening stanza gave an early glimpse of what looked as if a tight a close tussle could be on the cards. However, the home side ground their way into a position of dominance as the previously high-flying Steel were given a reality check against the slick Stars.

Led by their defensive end in this match, the Stars reputation as the team to beat continued to gain momentum as they maintained a perfect four-from-four record despite not having the greatest shooting percentages against the Steel.

Defender Oceane Maihi and shooter Amorangi Malesala joined the Stars during the last quarter, showing the depth of their bench while rattling on their highest score of the season. The home side negated the Steel’s early thrust, absorbing the pressure before kicking on to increase their lead at each break.

Rising young goalkeeper Taneisha Fifita had a strong second half for the Steel but a lack of ball counted against the visitors who struggled to match the Stars overall efficiency and experience across the court.

Both teams made steady and measured starts, the respective defensive sets applying plenty of pressure where there was no let-up for the shooters, patience on attack being a key ingredient. With goal attack Tiana Metuarau, once again, giving ample evidence of her extensive skillset, it was the Steel who held the slightest of edges through much of the first quarter.

There was little to separate the teams at this stage, but the Stars made their move late in the piece, dogged wing defence Lisa Mather being in the thick of the defensive action as a five-goal scoring streak pushed the home side out to a 16-13 lead at the first break.

It was all the Stars on the resumption with goal attack Jamie Hume, in her 50th match, catching the eye through her impressive distribution and shooing as the league leaders stole a march. At the other end, defensive duo Anna Harrison and Elle Temu put the wind up the Steel shooters, who went off the boil.

The speed of Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Gina Crampton got the Stars attacking momentum humming, backing up their productive zone defence to take a firm grip on proceedings.

Enjoying 13 more shots at goal, it was the Stars who bolted out to a handy 32-23 lead at the main break.

The Steel made a better fist of a lower-scoring third stanza but shooters Metuarau and the usually-prolific George Fisher continued to struggle against the Stars smothering defence. Harrison, enjoying her time back at goalkeeper, and Temu, in particular, were a menacing presence.

Finding her feet at this level, Temu was a standout in creating turnover opportunities after getting her hand to a bounty of extra ball through rebounds, intercepts and deflections. Once in transition through court, the Stars were an impressive sight, their speed and accuracy leaving the Steel little time to stem the flow.

It was troubling times for the visitors, who were well on the back foot, when trailing 43-31 at the last turn.