After suffering several close losses, the Silvermoon Tactix reversed the trend to pip the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel 53-52 in a thriller in Dunedin today.
Ironically, the last time the pair met two weeks ago, it was the Steel who prevailed with the exact same scoreline.
With their experienced heads leading the way, a patient and composed Steel were in the box seat when leading by three midway through the last quarter. But as they have done so often in the past, some last-gasp heroics from defenders Jane Watson and Temalisi Fakahokotau opened the door for the Tactix.
Ever-improving shooter Ellie Bird made the most of her opportunities to steer the Tactix ship home with an influential outing after posting 38 goals from 43 attempts to break a five-game losing streak for the visitors.
Notorious for their slow starts, the Tactix ensured they were well in the contest from the outset while keeping their noses in front during the opening half.
Both teams struggled to convert their chances in the opening stages with just four goals coming in the first five minutes but once the Steel had come back on level terms midway through the quarter, a goal-for-goal stalemate ensued.
Bird, the league’s tallest player, showed her growing presence under the Tactix hoop, delivering a strong holding game, sure hands and accuracy to give the visitors a narrow 13-11 lead at the first break.
Producing a lift in intensity and determination, the Steel were all business on the resumption, three straight goals quickly handing them the lead. From there, the lead changed hands several times as each team had their moments of mini runs.
Steel wing attack Gina Crampton was a busy and accurate feeder for the Steel while shooter Jen O’Connell enjoyed a greater volume as her accuracy levels rose.
An ankle injury forced dynamic defender Fakahokotau from the court briefly but her return moments before halftime coincided with the introduction of shooter Kate Beveridge to the action, the Tactix retaining the slimmest of buffers when leading 27-26.
The contest remained on a tightrope through an evenly contested third stanza. The Tactix maintained a three-goal buffer for much of the time but were unable to shake their gritty southern neighbours. The tall shooting duo under the hoop proved effective weapons for the Tactix, Australian import Beveridge sinking a series of crucial long-range attempts.
With Crampton continuing her sterling efforts on attack and providing O’Connell with a valuable supply of ball, a determined push late in the piece helped the relentless Steel get proceedings back on level terms. An exciting finish was in prospect after the pair went into the last turn all tied up at 40-all.
Official Result and Stats:
Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel: 52
Silvermoon Tactix: 53
Champion Data Match Centre:
Shooting Stats - Steel:
O'Connell: 42/52 @ 81%
TP Selby-Rickit: 10/16 @ 63%
Shooting Stats - Tactix
Bird: 38/43 @ 88%
Leaver: 6/9 @ 67%
Beveridge: 9/12 @ 75%
MVP: Kimiora Poi (Tactix)