Stars maintain undefeated record in 2021

THE Northern Stars remain the only undefeated team in the ANZ Premiership after toppling the renewed Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (55-51). They held on despite a strong comeback from the Magic in the final term, who mustered up all their energy to cause plenty of nerves across the board.

It did not take long for the Stars to stake their claim on the game, quickly converting off a turnover and then nailing a goal off their centre pass to create a two goal lead. Their composed ball movement and Maia Wilson’s strength on the hold created immediate danger as Gina Crampton found circle edge with relative ease. Things started to tighten up though as Georgia Tong and Temalisi Fakahokotau mounted pressure, to contest in the air and send the ball streaming down the other end as both Caitlin Bassett and Khiarna Williams settled in attack. A couple of overcooked passes from both sides into their respective holding shooters provided the defensive units a chance to capitalise and build momentum out of defence.

The workrate from Jamie Hume was up and about early with the goal attack not only doing work out the front but so too in the circle to drive into the space and take the pressure off Wilson. The lead continued to ebb and flow however the Stars maintained that handy two-goal buffer for majority of the term. The Magic had to use a patient approach when entering the attacking third with the defensive pressure from the Stars unrelenting, clogging up space and shutting down the drives. Anna Harrison was a menace in the air using her defensive nous to cleanly contest the high ball into Bassett and then propelling the ball back down the court in a blink of the eye. Playing with a seven ball game the Stars looked to consistently edge ahead with their attacking unit humming and causing all sorts of headaches but the Magic had plans of their own with wing attack Tori Kolose taking ownership in attack to deliver pin point passes into the circle.

There were changes galore for the Magic at quarter time with Georgie Edgecombe pushing into centre and Sam Winders swinging into wing attack. Erena Mikaere made her way onto the court in goal defence while Tong pushed over to wing defence. The short, sharp, patient play from the Stars enabled them to stay ahead in the contest with Harrison and Elle Temu mounting pressure down back. The changes did not stop there for the Magic with Chiara Semple also entering the game in hope to inject some dynamism in attack and distract the Stars’ defence. Although Wilson missed a couple of shots here and there her rebounding effort impressed, consistently following in her shot.

The second half started scrappy with both sides feeling each other out and looking to find that level of consistency. Temu impressed up against Bassett with the goal keeper contesting cleanly and showcasing her aerial presence. Lisa Mather was putting in the hard yards out in wing defence not only working hard around circle edge but dominating through transition to provide that additional outlet. The Stars seemed to have the ball on a string for majority of the quarter until Mikaere got involved with a handy intercept. Winders returned to the centre position and showcased her class to thread the needle but the ball speed from the home side was causing all sorts of havoc. Wilson started pulling out the party tricks with a well controlled take and flick back into court.

With the wheels falling off in attack, Waikato Bay of Plenty made the change in goal shooter with Bassett going to the bench and Williams re-entering the game in goal shooter. She managed to dwindle the lead back to eight goals but the Stars had all the answers. With five minutes left on the clock, Oceane Maihi got the call-up to goal defence with the defender using her long limbs to try and slow down play but that did not phase Williams who when in full-flight proved hard to stop.

It was much of the same in the final quarter with the Stars’ slick ball movement catching the Magic off guard time and time again. Back in goal keeper, Harrison showed every inch of her experience to nullify the influence of Williams with her long arms and reach enabling her to get hands to ball with ease. Mila Reuelu-Buchanan was a real workhorse through the centre constantly re-offering in attack and applying strong hands over pressure in defence. Things started to get a bit ragged in the final term with passes going astray for the Stars as their opponents well and truly started to work their way back into the contest winning some held ball calls and capitalising on turnovers. But nevertheless the Stars did enough to hold onto a four goal win withstanding the strong comeback.

The shooting load was shared between all three goalers for the Magic with Bassett topscoring with 21 from 23 at 91 per cent. Williams impressed thanks to her 20 from 21 and six goal assists while Semple played a handy assisting role with 10 goals. Winders had the magic touch with 17 goal assists while in defence Fakahokotau controlled proceedings with seven gains, three intercepts and three rebounds. Wilson was her ever-reliable self but was down on her accuracy sitting at 79 per cent after converting 42 of her 53 attempts. After a hot start Hume’s accuracy also wavered sitting at 62 per cent with 13 goals to her name. Crampton and Reuelu-Buchanan managed 20 goal assists apiece as Temu starred in defence with seven gains and three intercepts.

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