Mystics get the job done over top of the table Stars

NORTHERN Mystics snuck over the line in their top of the table clash with Northern Stars to claim a three-goal win 63-60. It was always going to be an intense battle with neither side willing to take a backward step and with bragging rights at stake, but in the end the Mystics levelled the playing field to make it one win apiece in season 2021.

Jamie Hume wasted no time getting on the scoreboard for the Stars sinking the first goal of the game. But she was quickly answered by Grace Nweke up the other end signalling the intent from both sides. It was laboured in attack for the Stars with Mila Reuelu-Buchanan playing her 50th game and Gina Crampton having to play the ball around to open up Hume and Maia Wilson at the post credit to the work from Sulu Fitzpatrick and Kate Burley to shut down the space and make life hard. The lead swapped hands multiple times throughout the opening quarter with neither side able to stamp their authority on the game.

Each time the Mystics snuck out to a two-goal lead, the Stars found a way to work their way back into the contest and level the scores. Crampton was finding nice space on circle edge while Peta Toeava was using her speed to light up the attacking third for the Mystics. Nweke was doing her job under the post scoring all 10 goals up until the five minute mark. It was intercepts galore with Fitzpatrick going up nice and high to steal the ball before Crampton got involved. Toeava had the ball on a string, threading the needle to Nweke time and time again as the Mystics put the foot down to skip out to a four goal-lead with the home side nailing the last three goals of the term.

The Stars maintained their starting seven with Anna Harrison, Elle Temu and Oceane Maihi all taking out the defensive positions. Harrison had her work cut out for her against Toeava who was using her speed to avoid the long arms of the former Silver Fern who was playing out in wing defence. It was rough and ready in the circle between Maihi and Nweke but it was the latter who was winning the battle with her accuracy and volume to post. The ball continued to fall into the hands of the Mystics with Fitzpatrick bobbing up and winning ball back. But Maihi gave something for Stars fans to cheer about with the goal keeper streaming out and then doubling back into the circle to pick up a much-needed intercept. The lead was out to five goals with the Mystics dictating the play.

All of a sudden the margin was back to three goals as the defensive hustle increased from the Stars with Reuelu-Buchanan and Maihi rallying. Australian Claire O’Brien got the nod in at centre once again for the Mystics while Dani Gray was tasked with stopping Crampton. The two midcourters worked in tandem to keep Crampton busy and away from circle edge with the intensity well and truly up. In the blink of an eye the Mystics snuck back out to a seven-goal lead with the injection of Grace Kukutai adding an extra layer in defence. The ball speed from the home side was causing all sorts of trouble for the Stars who were unable to hold up Toeava in particular who was a real general in attack.

Looking for a spark in attack, Amorangi Malesala came on while Lisa Mather also made her way onto the court in wing defence to combat Toeava who was having a day out. The Stars came out with a real point to prove with the defensive pressure from Maihi and Harrison who switched back into goal defence. With the lead out to nine goals it was the experienced stalwarts for the Stars that stepped up to the challenge to peg away at the scoreboard with Crampton and Wilson leading the way. The issue still remained with Nweke an immovable force at the post and goal accuracy the other problem with the Mystics converting at 95 per cent and the Stars at a mere 79 per cent.

Kukutai’s cameo was short-lived with O’Brien sprung back into the action but that did not seem to faze the Mystics who were humming along nicely. Turnover ball from the Stars allowed them to stay in the hunt as Malesala and Wilson mounted a comeback thanks to three goals straight while Mather got her hands dirty with a good scrapping ball.

The raggedy finish to the third term filtered into the start of the last quarter with wayward passes and uncharacteristic turnovers dictating the first few minutes. the Mystics simply could not be stopped despite the best efforts of Harrison and Maihi with Nweke having a field day out on court. Fitzpatrick and Burley got fancy in defence with a signature ‘Harrison Hoist’ with their long arms getting in the head of Wilson. With five and a half minutes left to play the Stars got back to within two but the Mystics stood strong to maintain that winning buffer of three goals.

Nweke was unstoppable at the post once again posting a whopping 60 goals from 64 attempts. Although Mes did not feature highly on the scoreboard with her three goals at 100 per cent her workload out the front was crucial amassing 18 goal assists. Toeava was another crucial cog in the absence of Earle recording 29 goal assists while defensively Burley and Fitzpatrick got a hand to everything, collecting seven gains. For the Stars, Wilson was strong to post finishing with 34 goals to her name but was down on her usual output. She received plenty of support from the likes of Hume sinking 10 goals at a lowly 64 per cent before Malesala was injected and starred with her 16 goals from 17 attempts. Crampton was a menace around circle edge registering 32 goal assists while Maihi enjoyed her time out on court picking up six gains and four intercepts.

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