The Northern Stars held off a last quarter fight back from the Northern Mystics to beat their cross-town rivals 55-49 at Pulman Arena to conclude round 3 of the ANZ Premiership.
The Stars also take away first bragging rights in the 3 game Barfoot and Thompson Northern Challenge, but the home side didn’t have it all their own way.
With a comfortable 12 goal lead heading into the final quarter the Mystics grew in confidence, spear-headed by young Grace Nweke who was a breath of fresh air for the Mystics.
Stars Head Coach Kiri Wills praised her team for their composure under pressure.
“I’m happy to come away with the win and also deny the Mystics a bonus point, I also think it’s great we got a fright like that ahead of Monday’s match against the Pulse.”
Both teams took their time to settle into the match with loose balls and uncharacteristic errors littering the first half.
Stars defensive trio of Storm Purvis, Leana De Bruin and Kayla Cullen punished any attacking errors from the Mystics which contributed to the healthy 16-8 half time lead.
Purvis and De Bruin continued to disrupt the Mystics shooters in the second quarter with the visiting team bringing on Australian import Kristina Brice into goal shoot and subbing Bailey Mes.
The switch didn’t work as the Stars extended their lead out to twelve goals, which prompted another change up for the Mystics.
Mes replaced Jamie Hume at goal attack and slotted a couple of long bombs to settle the Mystics attack.
Charlee Hodges replaced Ellen Halpenny midway through the second quarter with Wills looking for more movement on attack.
“She (Charlee) is hungry for the ball and I know when she’s out there she’ll go out and demand ball which I love to see,” said Wills.
Maia Wilson held strong under the post against the pressure of Erena Mikaere and Phoenix Karaka to help the home side to a 28-17 half time lead.
Mystics training partner Nweke’s introduction into the Mystics shooting circle after half time wowed the South Auckland crowd with her athleticism and strong hold.
Nweke helped the Mystics to a three-goal run before Temepara Bailey and Mila Ruelu-Buchanan switched up another gear and marshalled their troops to retain their stronghold over the match.
The Stars retained their twelve-goal lead heading into the final quarter, but that lead was quickly trimmed to five goals as Mystics grew in confidence.
Reuelu-Buchanan was having a field day at wing attack, enjoying the run of space and her connection with Bailey is getting stronger with each match.
As consolation the Mystics did win the final quarter 19-13.
Captain Leana De Bruin was name MVP and Stonz Jewellers player of the match.
The Stars enjoyed their third win from four matches and next take on competition leaders the Central Pulse on Monday night at Pulman Arena.