Stars shine early to down Magic

CLAIMING an important victory over the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic, the Northern Stars kept their hopes of an automatic grand final chance alive with a win in the postponed Round 5 ANZ Premiership clash. The Stars drew level with the Central Pulse and Northern Mystics on 31 points, sitting just percentage behind the pair who play each other in their final match. The Stars take on the Southern Steel tomorrow, and a win will see them temporarily take top spot to await the result of the top two clash. Against the Magic, the Stars set up the win with a 33-24 first half, holding off a late Magic surge to win by four goals, 58-54.

NORTHERN STARS 17 | 16 | 15 | 10 (58)
WBOP MAGIC 12 | 12 | 16 | 14 (54)

Northern Mystics needed to get the job done against the last placed Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic to have any hope of snatching top spot on the ANZ Premiership ladder and a subsequent automatic grand final spot, and that was exactly what they did. The third placed team looked impressive throughout the first half, racing to a five-goal lead at quarter time, which at one stage got out to seven goals thanks to a dominant performance from Maia Wilson (11 goals from 13 attempts) and sizzling feeding display from Gina Crampton (11 goal assists from 21 feeds). Kayla Johnson was also doing well in goal defence, with both Bailey Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio limited to six goals from seven attempts, though Claire Kersten was on top in the centre battle with five goal assists for the term.

The Stars lead grew out to as much as nine goals as Amorangi Malesala came to play, with the Stars shooting combo adding six of the first eight goals to lead 23-14 in the opening four and a half minutes. Though the Magic did manage to cut it back to as little as six at one stage, the last three goals going the way of he Stars ensured the home team headed into the main break with a nine-goal lead, 33-24. Malesala (eight goals from 11 attempts) and Wilson (eight from nine) were running hot, with Crampton (nine goal assists) continuing her great form making it 20 in a half, while Mila Reuelu-Buchanan also edged on top of Kersten in the centre battle.

A chance of Kersten into wing defence to take on Crampton, and Samantha Winders moving into centre for the Magic saw a change in fortunes for the visitors. Though it looked ugly early – with Wilson piling on five consecutive goals at one stage to blow the margin out to 13, the Magic hit back to actually win the quarter 16-15 and cut the deficit to eight at the final break, 40-48. Wilson carried the load for the Stars with 14 goals from 15 attempts, while Ekenasio (11 goals at 100 per cent efficiency) and Mes (five from seven) helped their side to win the quarter. Winders’ move into centre also proved beneficial, racking up seven goal assists.

The momentum of the third term carried into the fourth term for the Magic as the cellar dwellers had a crack at causing an upset. At one stage the Magic cut the deficit back to as little as four midway through the term, with inclusion Jamie Hume shooting one from six in an inaccurate display. Though the Stars’ inefficiency opened the door for the Magic, Wilson did enough to steady the ship. Though it was more nail-biting in the end than they would have liked, the home team still came away with the four-goal win, 58-54. Ekenasio shot 11 goals from 13 attempts in the term, with Simmon Wilbore having six goal assists from eight feeds in the final term.

Goal keeper Anna Harrison won Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the game, picking up two intercepts, a rebound, nine deflections and nine gains in a terrific performance. She was well supported by Johnson (two intercepts, two rebounds) in defence, while Crampton racked up a whopping 29 goal assists, and Reuelu-Buchanan had 17 goal assists and two intercepts. Wilson (42 goals from 47 attempts) was the dominant shooter on the night. For the Magic, Ekenasio shot 34 goals from 41 attempts, while Mes had 20 from 24. Wilbore finished with a team-high 16 goal assists.

While the Stars take on the Southern Steel tomorrow, the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic clash with the Steel themselves in the final game of the ANZ Premiership season on Saturday.

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