THE Mainland Tactix were overcome in an extra time thriller and just fell short of their finals campaign with the Northern Mystics coming out victorious with a three goal win.
A 64 – 61 victory for the Mystics solidified their place in their home grand final against either the Central Pulse or Tactix who face off this Sunday. The Mystics are officially the 2023 ANZ Premiership minor premiership as they procured a nail biting win over the Tactix who needed to win by at least 12-goals to secure their place in the playoffs and overtake the Northern Stars.
The Tactix are coming into this do or die game off two in form wins over the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic and the Central Pulse whose winning streak was just broken by the Tactix.
The Mystics put the pressure on early taking the lead into the first break 18 – 13 off the hand of a three goal run for the first whistle with Grace Nweke (59 goals) getting her confidence up early. The Mystics attack came out firing right out of the blocks, scoring within the first eight seconds.
Connections are plentiful with Nweke, Elisapeta Toeava and Tayla Earle all reading off each other really well, waiting for the next option to open up and not first the ball into the shooting circle. Toeava and Earle had plenty of speed to burn and they kept their opposition quiet.
Mystics defenders had big shoes to fill with Kimiora Poi (41 feeds, 20 goal assists, 20 centre pass receives) being the most accurate feeders in the league with 94 percent accuracy. She was certainly shut down on circle edge with only six feeds in the first term with fellow middie Laura Malcolm having to do the bulk of the ball work.
Poi had to do a lot of work off the ball to get herself free tonight with the defence tagging and sticking on her so she was unavailable as an option. Even with Poi’s prelim movements, she was getting shut down, disrupting the flow of the Tactix attack end.
Player of the match Phoenix Karaka had the job of shutting down Te Paea Selby-Rickit, with the Tactix having a good game whenever Selby-Rickit was having a good game. Karaka certainly tried, but instead of shutting down her player completely, she was winning ball back for her side and being the go-to ball-getter with six gains, four intercepts, four deflections and one rebound.
It was a good fight back by the Tactix at half time, reducing the deficit back to two (29 – 27) heading into the main break.
A goal on the siren by Aliyah Dunn (32) forced extra time with scores tied up 57 all, an entertaining way to end the regular homeland away season. Extra time rules include two three minute periods of play with one minute in between. Both teams swap sides after the break and if it is still a draw after this, the side who become two goals up take the three points.
This was not true for this outing as the Mystics made their presence shown early with Nweke slotting seven from seven. Karaka brought the momentum back with the Mystics with an intercept flying into the circle with Dunn alone under the post, starting another three goal run.
This three-goal win for the Mystics means the Tactix now finish fourth on the ladder and are out of finals. The Pulse will face the Stars this Sunday to see who will face the minor premiers in the grand final.
Central Pulse (45) defeated by Mainland Tactix (54)
A defensive demolition by the Tactix kept their finals chances alive with a convincing nine goal win over the reigning premiers. Kimiora Poi took out player of the match honours with 33 feeds, 17 goal assists and two reflections, but it was Karin Burger who was a force to be reckoned with getting five gains and three intercepts while keeping her Tiana Metuarau to just five goals while keeping her quiet in attack. It was a time to test defensive combinations for the Pulse with Kristiana Manu’a (four deflections, three gains, three rebounds) winning plenty of ball while rewarding how much of an impact Parris Mason makes when she enters the court. A confident Tactix are wanting to continue this form over the ladder leading Mystics to grab the third spot of the finals.
Northern Stars (58) defeated by Northern Mystics (63)
The Mystics clinch the minor premiership with a nail biting win over the Stars who are vying for a finals spot over the Tactix. A standout performance by player of the match Filda Vui (11) took most of the load in attack obtaining 18 goal assists, 21 feeds, and 23 centre pass receives. Her passes into Grace Nweke under the post were accurate with 85 percent of her feeds resulting in a goal. Mila Reuelu-Buchanan is having the season of her lids with her attacking and defensive game being outstanding ahead of the World Cup with the squad to be announced in the next few weeks. The amount of times she gets her hand on the ball is astonishing with 65 feeds and 23 goal assists. The Stars are now hoping that the Mystics beat the Tactix so their finals spot can be secured.
Southern Steel (52) defeated by Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (53)
Farewell to two decorated athletes in Bailey Mes and Claire Kersten who announced their retirements in the last week. Two superstars for the Magic shone bright in their win over the Steel who would end the season with pride having the full support of their fans behind them. The Magic players and coaching staff performed a haka in front of their teammates which brought tears to everyone’s eyes in the stadium and at home.
Player of the match Ameliaranne Ekenasio kept her shooting load high, slotting 30 from 32 while keeping her defenders quiet. The iconic switch in positions between Mes and Ekenasio kept the Magic attack line balanced as Ekenasio shot the winning goal with 13 seconds left on the clock. Down the other end, Saviour Tui (41) was the light in the narrow end in the Steel’s season acting as a moving target in the shooting circle, as she has had the bulk of the Steel’s shooting load since her return back from injury, finally being able to play 60 minutes and solidifying herself as the go to shooter for the Steel.