Showing all of their southern spirit, Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel opened the second Super Sunday of the season with a gritty 63-60 win over the Northern Stars in Christchurch today.
After going down by two goals to the same opponents seven days ago, the result added to the Stars disappointment after they were left still searching for their first win of the season. Coming close numerous times so far, the outcome was all too familiar for the Stars in posting their fourth bonus point loss.
Leading by seven with just minutes remaining, the Steel were forced to withstand a furious last-ditch comeback from the Stars but it all proved too little too late.
There was a bit of everything thrown in from these two evenly-matched teams as both strived to gain the ascendancy in a tight encounter.
Shooters Maia Wilson and Paula Griffin, once again, were a feature with their understanding under the Stars hoop while at the other end, 1.9m goalkeeper Olivia Coughlan was effective in gaining bonus turnover ball.
The Steel stuck soundly to their opponents, pushing out to a three-goal lead before the Stars returned the favour to leave the scores locked at 18-all at the end of a high-scoring opening. In her 100th outing at national league level Griffin returned a perfect six from six.
Replacement player Kate Burley took over at goal defence from Ama Agbeze on the resumption and helped the Stars make the best of starts.
The Steel’s injury woes were compounded when exciting young defender Courtney Elliott was forced from the court with an ankle complaint early on, Abby Erwood taking over at goalkeeper.
Let down by a lack of shooting accuracy and errors on attack, the Steel dropped off the pace to trail by four as the Stars looked set to take control.
However, well-known for their grit and determination, the Steel were quickly back to normal service, the Selby-Rickit sisters anchoring each end of the court and having plenty of impact.
Shooter Te Paea was a dominant figure under the Steel post, with a fine return of 26 from 29 for the match, while defender Te Huinga Reo picked off a number of turnover opportunities.
However, it was the Steel who headed to the main break with a 33-30 lead.
Showing more mobility on attack, sure shooting returns and a big lift on defence, led by Erwood and captain Wendy Frew, helped the Steel retain the upper hand during the third stanza. Conversely, the Stars accuracy fell away and they were unable to make the most of their turnover opportunities.
Pushing out to a seven-goal lead, the dogged Steel threatened to take off but a late surge kept the Stars in the contest. Wilson regained her touch but with the Steel leading 50-45 at the last turn, there was still plenty of work ahead of the Stars.
Official Result and Stats:
Northern Stars: 60
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 63
Champion Data Match Centre:
Shooting Stats - Stars:
Wilson: 38/46 83%
Griffin: 12/14 86%
Halpenny: 10/13 77%
Shooting Stats - Steel:
O'Connell: 37/44 84%
Selby-Rickit: 26/29 90%
MVP: Te Paea Selby-Rickit (Steel)