Stars shoot into finals after Steeling win

THE 2022 ANZ Premiership finalists have been decided after the Northern Stars shut the door on any hope that the Southern Steel could snatch a top three spot. The Stars had to overcome a nervous extra time to finally put away the determined Steel, but were able to steady when it counted to come away with the two-goal win, 62-60. The Steel lead at half-time and three quarter time in front of their home fans at ILT Stadium, but a six goal to four extra time period in favour of the visitors was the difference in the end.

SOUTHERN STEEL 11 | 17 | 16 | 12 | 4 (60)
NORTHERN STARS 13 | 14 | 14 | 15 | 6 (62)

Northern Stars started off the match strongly taking the crowd out of it a bit to lead by two goals at the first break after scoring 13-11 in the opening term. Interestingly, both sides only made the one substitution on the opening term with direct matchup Georgia Heffernan and Elle Temu both coming off for their replacements Saviour Tui and Kayla Johnson respectively. Temu had done well on Heffernan keeping her to two goals from three attempts, as leading shooter George Fisher shot eight goals at 100 per cent, with Heffernan and Shannon Saunders producing a combined 10 goal assists. Jamie Hume was busy for the Stars shooting five goals from seven attempts and having five goal assists in the process.

Both teams reversed the substitutions in the second term, as the Steel levelled the scores back on a number of occasions, then went goal-for-goal for the rest of the half. Fisher scored the last one of the first half to put the Steel up by a goal, 28-27. Fisher was on fire, shooting 13 goals and maintaining her 100 per cent record, while Heffernan shot four goals at 100 per cent and had nine goal assists, with Saunders (six goal assists) also lively. For the Stars, Maia Wilson stepped up to shoot 10 goals from 11 attempts, as the midcourt duo of Gina Crampton and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan having five goal assists each, and Temu continuing her defensive pressure.

Johnson returned to the court for the second half replacing Holly Fowler, as the Steel extended their lead out to three. Despite the Steel shooting as many as four consecutive goals, it did not get beyond that four-goal margin, and eventually resulted in a 44-41 lead after Wilson shot a buzzer beater. Fisher missed her first shot of the contest but still managed 13 goals from 14 attempts, while Wilson shot all 11 of her attempts accurately. Crampton (eight goals assists) and Temu (two intercepts) were again strong for the Stars.

The fourth term was one of ebbs and flows, with the Steel scoring six of the first nine goals to race out to a 50-44 lead. They had made a number of changes at the break with Tui returning , while Sarahpheinna Woulf came on with Te Huinga Selby-Rickit coming off. The only change the Stars made was in the last five minutes with Fowler returning to the court in centre, replacing Reuelu-Buchanan. A late flurry of goals from the Stars saw them continually keep in touch with the Steel, and after a crucial Tui miss with 33 seconds on the clock, Hume – on her second attempt at goal levelled the scores to send the game into extra time.

The Steel brought back Heffernan and Selby-Rickit for the must-win six minutes, though Hume continued that form with the first two goals of the extra period. Fisher responded with three of her own and the Steel was back up by one as they headed to the first break. Wilson and Hume then scored the first three of the second extra time half, and while Heffernan responded, another goal to Wilson sealed the deal with 12 seconds left on the clock to hand the Stars a 62-60 victory.

Crampton earned the Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours with 29 goal assists from 50 feeds, leading the way for the Stars. Temu had two rebounds and four intercepts, with Wilson (44 goals from 48 attempts and three rebounds) and Hume (18 goals from 24 attempts and 11 goal assists) also impressive. For the Steel, Fisher tried her hardest with 45 goals from 46 attempts, while Saunders (19 goal assists), Kate Heffernan (three intercepts, 13 goal assists) and Georgia Heffernan (13 goals from 15 attempts and 21 goal assists) were also consistent.

Northern Stars take on Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic on Wednesday, with Southern Steel locking horns with the Stars again on Thursday to conclude a busy week for the Stars heading into finals.

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