Relishing their one and only game at home this season, The Good Oil Tactix made the most of it with a classy 52-42 win over Robinhood Northern Stars in Christchurch on Thursday.
The excited buzz around the streets of Christchurch had been building all week and spilled into Horncastle Arena where a crowd of 5000, the largest in ANZ Premiership history, gave their enthusiastic and vocal support in what was a crucial match in the race to make the top two.
In what has been a tough year for them, the Tactix responded in the first of the games returning to the regions in style, showcasing their resilience by dominating for all but the third quarter of the match. Rebounding after losing the third quarter, the Tactix delivered a rollicking final 12 minutes as they went on to post their highest score of the competition.
In comparison to the Tactix, who remained unchanged throughout, the Stars made a number of switches throughout as they tried to find chinks in their increasingly-confident opponents. From midway through the first quarter, they were left to play catch-up, the constant pressure eventually taking its toll.
The result leaves the Tactix well in the hunt for a top two spot while that mission has now got a whole lot more difficult for the Stars.
The home side negated an early Stars lead with a three-goal streak to set them on their way. It didn’t take long for ever-active Tactix defender Jane Watson to leave her mark. Her disruptive play getting extra ball for her side which was delivered seamlessly through the court, the link between wing attack Erikana Pedersen and shooter Ellie Bird proving productive.
Bird’s side-kick Te Paea Selby-Rickit was on song from long range while at the other end in-form Stars shooter Maia Wilson didn’t miss a beat. However, it was the perfect return from the home team shooters who helped push the Tactix out to a 13-11 lead at the first break.
To help combat the height of Bird, the Stars introduced Trinidad & Tobago import defender Daystar Swift on the resumption at goalkeeper with immediate effect. Her disruption of the Tactix shooters helped the visitors draw level but it didn’t last long.
It’s hard to keep Watson out of any game, and this one proved no different. The rangy defender’s presence in the back three made life tough for the Stars attackers, the constant pressure paying dividends as the red and blacks got more ball in their hands.
Pedersen was an ever-present with her ball distribution, Selby-Rickit got through lots of work outside the circle in the play-making role while Bird applied the finishing touches under the hoop to further push the Tactix out to a handy 28-20 lead at the main break after a free-scoring second stanza.
With in-circle defender Kate Burley back on and Fa’amu Ioane injected at wing defence for the third quarter, the Stars pulled out all the defensive stops during an abrasive 12 minutes just when the Tactix threatened to open the floodgates.
Both Burley and Ioane were influential in helping take the flow out of the Tactix game and with it, earning turnovers as the Stars clawed their way back. After drawing to within the three, the Stars could not sustain their momentum, the Tactix recovering their poise to take a 37-31 lead at the last turn.