Pulsating win to book Central grand final place

CENTRAL Pulse are the team to beat in the 2022 ANZ Premiership finals series after running out whopping 18-goal winners over reigning premiers Northern Mystics. The full-strength Pulse were far too good fo a Mystics outfit still missing key goal shooter Grace Nweke, but also midcourters Tayla Earle and Elisapeta Toeava, which hurt not only the scoring, but the work in transition. Instead, the Pulse midcourt went to town and the wide went on to win all four quarters in a 58-40 victory.

NORTHERN MYSTICS 12 | 10 | 6 | 12 (40)
CENTRAL PULSE 14 | 12 | 17 | 15 (58)

Things went from bad to worse at the selection table for the Mystics, who had fallen into a terrible slump since losing Nweke to injury, having to start without key midcourters Earle and Toeava. Instead, it was Fa’amu Ioane (centre) and Ariana Cable Dixon (wing attack) who started against the far more experienced Maddy Gordon and Erikana Pedersen. The defensive end of the court was the only experienced third for the Mystics, who started with Sulu Fitzpatrick, Phoenix Karaka and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson up against Aliyah Dunn, Tiana Metuarau and Whitney Souness.

The first half was not so bad for the Mystics who were brave despite being outclassed in terms of experience, only trailing by four goals at the main break. Dunn was proving to be a problem, shooting 20 goals from 21 attempts, while Souness (eight goal assists) was busy in wing attack. The charge was made late in the first term for Gemma Etheredge to replace Ioane in centre, a move that was reversed five minutes into the second term. The third quarter saw both sides roll out the changes with rotations galore, including defender Karaka head into goal shooter to start the second half.

That did not go well, with the Silver Fern chucked back into defence at the seven-minute mark, and Monica Falkner brought back on after the Mystics had only scored three goals in the first half of the term – and in the end first 10 minutes – while the Pulse piled on 11 by that stage. Those moved proved to be the unravelling of the contest, as the Pulse scored 17 goals to six to blow the lead out to 15 goals at the final change. Yet again both sides reeled out the changes in the final term, but the damage was done and the Pulse still won the last quarter 15-12, finishing off the match with a 58-40 victory.

In a real open field of candidates, it was Pulse captain Metuarau who took home the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award with 17 goals from 21 attempts, 10 goal assists and an intercept on the night. She teamed up well with Dunn (37 goals from 41 attempts), while Souness (22 goal assists) and Pedersen (16) both dominant in midcourt. Kelly Jury enjoyed the pressure up the court, picking up three intercepts, eight gains, 11 deflections and two rebounds.

For the Mystics, Grace Namana tried hard shooting 32 goals from 37 attempts in goal shooter, while Falkner (five goals from six attempts and 12 goal assists) was the most successful feeder. Fitzpatrick (three gains, one intercept, one deflection and two rebounds) tried hard, as did Karaka (one goal from three attempts, three gains, one intercept, three deflections and a rebound) at both ends of the court.

Now Central Pulse will sit back and await the winner of the two northern sides, with the Northern Mystics hoping to snap their losing streak against the Northern Stars in the elimination final on Wednesday.

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