Steel withstand the Mystics' heat for second win
On a humid Auckland evening, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel have endured the heat poured on by the SKYCITY Mystics, to notch up their second win of the ANZ Premiership, 74-67, at The Trusts Arena.
After a tight tussle for almost all of the match’s 60 minutes, where the difference was rarely more than two, the Steel’s experience and discipline came to the fore in the final moments, denying the Mystics a bonus point for finishing within five.
The feisty battle between two international stars – Steel shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid and Mystics defender Anna Harrison - was the highlight of the clash.While both players had phases of domination, Jamaican Fowler-Reid’s individual contribution of 59 goals under massive pressure was a telling point in the seven-goal victory.
There was little to separate the two sides who were goal-for-goal for most of the opening quarter. The Mystics grabbed a three-point break halfway through, their attack firing accurate big bombs into the sure hands of shooter Bailey Mes. But Steel goal defence Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit, celebrating her 28th birthday, snatched three intercepts to help the Steel claim the lead 18-16 at the first break.
The Mystics soon assumed the upper-hand, with wing attack Elisapeta Toeava showing her athleticism and flair working the ball in to Mes and Maria Tutaia.
At the opposite end, goal keep Harrison did her utmost to upset Fowler-Reid, stealing the odd intercept and rebound in a heated battle. But the Steel’s perennial import stood her ground, and with her height advantage - and the support of goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit - the Steel shot back into the lead, 36-35, at halftime.
Both sides introduced fresh defensive legs to start the third quarter - Storm Purvis injected into the Mystics and Abby Erwood for the Steel. It was an emotional match for Erwood, who wore a black armband in memory of her late grandmother, Shirley Annan – a Silver Ferns defender in the 1960s. Her defensive partner, Jane Watson, also gave a gutsy performance, with an impressive 15 deflections.
Both teams showed renewed patience to get the ball to their shooters, until the final five minutes of the spell, when the Steel’s infamous pressure was turned up, and they created a three-goal break.
Trailing 55-53 going into the final period, the Mystics struck back early - Harrison appearing to finally have the better of Fowler-Reid – to snatch a two-goal lead.
But once again, the Steel focused on the basics, forcing the Mystics to make simple individual errors. A straightforward turnover instigated by captain Wendy Frew was part of the final and conclusive Steel comeback.