The Robinhood Northern Stars have opened their 2020 ANZ Premiership season by going down to cross-town rivals the Northern Mystics 55-59 in Takanini tonight.
The Mystics have also drawn first blood in the Barfoot and Thompson Northern Challenge - a best of three series.
It was a case of too many errors from the home side who failed to convert turn over ball. The Mystics shot out of the blocks early, building a six-goal lead before the Stars managed to peg back two goals to trail 16-20 at the first break.
Head coach Kiri Wills was happy that her side managed a bonus point from the match, but admitted consistency let the team down.
“The start really hurt us, and we can’t let that happen against any side in this competition,” Wills said.
Wills added, “I’m really proud at how the team really toiled away and backed each other. There was some great play from our team, and it gives us a huge amount of confidence going forward.”
Captain Grace Kara returned to the court to rapturous applause from the crowed following the birth of her first child. The experienced midcourter had early jitters with two breaking calls but redeemed herself to show leadership down the stretch.
“I’m really happy that we didn’t let it blow out too much when they started to get on a roll, that shows the heart and fight in our team,” Kara said.
Kara added, “I’m also pleased with Lisa Mather, she had a solid game at center, a position she’s still learning.”
Mather was bought on in the first quarter for Mila Reuelu-Buchanan to limit the impact of Mystics middies Tayla Earle and Peta Toeava. Both were finding shooter Grace Nweke easily under the post.
The Stars started to find their groove in the middle stages of the game on the back of some superb defence work from Fa’amu Ioane, Kate Burley and Daystar Swift. The home side drew the second quarter 13-all, and won the third quarter 15-12. The Stars went into the final stanza down by one goal, 44-45.
The Mystics game plan was clear – try and keep the ball away from Maia Wilson. The goal-shoot was double marked by Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick for much of the match, leaving Jamie Hume to carry the shooting load early on.
Wilson worked her way into the match and demanded ball from her feeders, converting 40 from 45 attempts at goal, many from distance.
Training partner Oceane Maihi was elevated into the game day squad and starting line-up. Maihi was bought in to fill the void left by Storm Purvis who has returned to court training following knee surgery late last year.
The Mystics treasured possession better in the final quarter to build another six-goal lead, eventually winning the final stanza 11-14.
The Robinhood Northern Stars will next face the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic on Monday 23 March in Tauranga.