NORTHERN Stars have booked their spot in the ANZ Premiership Grand Final after a 53-52 win over Central Pulse.
Last year’s grand final rematch proved to be a heart wrenching showdown as both teams had something to prove coming off of losses last week. The pure emotion from the players on and off the court after the one-goal win to the Stars was visible as everyone was in shock.
Neither side had lost an elimination final in the history of the ANZ Premiership prior to today, where the reigning premiers in the Pulse were two and one ahead of the Stars this season in wins.
With the Pulse’s season ending, they now say goodbye to their head coach Yvette McCausland-Durie who has been a loyal member of the Pulse and the backbone of their success.
Not the result that 100 gamer Kelly Jury would have wanted to remember as a late contact in the circle gave the Stars a chance for goal after the whistle which was sent straight through the middle of the ring.
Jury dominated the first half in and out of the circle getting plenty of clean ball and deflections around the body. She led the league in deflections and defensive rebounds in the regular season and was second for intercepts. She was creating doubt in the shooters minds, forcing them to pass off the ball to the outside of the circle or blocking their shots.
It was the battle between the two centres in Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and player of the match Maddy Gordon who both use their speed to their advantage in their goal thirds as well as being able to win back the ball for their sides around circle edge.
Both centres did an immense amount of work in attack, but an intercept from Gordon in the dying seconds of the second quarter really summed up who had won that battle as sh had a screamer down the middle third and passed the ball straight into Amelia Walmsley (41 goals) alone under the post for an easy goal just before the whistle.
The Pulse took a convincing four-goal lead into the main break ahead 29-25 thanks to the defensive efforts of Jury and Gordon.
The third quarter is one the Stars will want to watch forever with an eight-goal turnaround while being the only quarter that they won shooting 16 goals to the Pulse’s eight.
Elle Temu shut down Walmsley, keeping her to only six goals while picking up two intercepts. Temu really came to light in the second half, not being afraid to go out for a fly and working seamlessly with fellow defender Holly Fowler who were keeping their shooters quiet and picking off some penalties from the shooters.
A last moment fight back by the Pulse with the help of a three goal run tied the scores 52-all, but it was the inexperience that showed and the game awareness with the clock that let them down, allowing time for the Stars to score after the whistle on a penalty that will haunt the Pulse side for the next few years to come.
The Stars will play in a Northern derby with the Mystics next Sunday in Hamilton.