The composure of the Southern Steel helped them to a 60-58 win over the Northern Stars in round eight of the ANZ Premiership today.
The Stars turned out a much-improved performance in front of a supportive home crowd without experienced players Temepara Bailey and Ellen Halpenny.
Both players were granted pre-approved leave last year which gave Charlee Hodges, Holly Fowler and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan the opportunity to stake their claim for more court time.
The young attacking end really stood up against the experienced defending champions, impressing captain Leana De Bruin.
“We had a lot of inexperience on our attacking end, I’m proud of what they’ve done, and Holly had a great game at center,” said De Bruin.
Maia Wilson who in recent weeks had a dip in shooting accuracy was constantly taking a battering from Steel defenders, but the young goal shoot showed grit and determination to bounce back and shoot 39/49 attempts.
As consolation for their third consecutive loss the Stars managed to pick up a bonus point for their efforts.
De Bruin added, “that bonus point is better than nothing, especially without Temepara and Ellen, we also had a much better start.”
In their last two matches the Stars we guilty of poor starts and high attacking errors, but Wilson and Hodges settled in well to go goal for goal with the Steel.
A long range shot from Te Paea Selby-Rickit on the stroke of quarter time gave the visitors a 15-14 lead.
The Stars enjoyed a slight three goal lead on the back of smothering defence from captain Leana De Bruin and Storm Purvis who disrupted Steel shooters Jennifer O’Connell and Selby-Rickit.
Down in the Stars shooting circle Wilson started to exert dominance which prompted a defensive change for the Steel, bringing in Courtney Elliot at goal keep.
The partnership between Fowler and Reuelu-Buchanan started to gain momentum and were assisted by Hodges who slotted into third feeder role which helped the Stars to a 30-26 half time lead.
Kayla Cullen made her first appearance at center for the season as she and Fowler switched positions to start the second half.
The change didn’t last long before Fowler returned to center as the Steel’s Lenize Potgieter made immediate impact to peg back the score and take a 44-45 lead into the final stanza.
In the final two minutes a Kate Burley turnover gave the Stars a chance to draw level, but a wayward pass allowed the Steel to secure the win.
The Northern Stars travel to Christchurch after the Easter holiday break to take on the Tactix on Tuesday 23rd April.
The final regular season home game at Pulman Arena will be against the Northern Mystics on Sunday 28th April at 4pm. Tickets available here