Stars shoot to top, set to host elimination final

SECURING the much needed three points, Northern Stars will host the 2022 ANZ Premiership elimination final after defeating Southern Steel in a massive 19-goal victory (68-49) in Auckland yesterday. The Stars showed their full potential against an out of sorts Steel outfit who only had pride on the line. After securing their spot in the post-season series with a win against the Steel five days earlier, the Stars won a second game against the fourth placed opponent to ensure they hosted the loser of Central Pulse and Northern Mystics in the elimination final on Wednesday.

NORTHERN STARS 13 | 18 | 17 | 20 (68)
SOUTHERN STEEL 9 | 13 | 14 | 13 (49)

Northern Stars produced a dominant performance against Southern Steel to finish their regular season on a massive high. Unlike the two team’s battle the weekend prior, the Stars took control from start to finish, winning all four quarters on their way to a massive win. The majority of the goal shooters shot at a high efficiency, with Stars gun Maia Wilson taking out the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for her 51 goals from 55 attempts in the rescheduled Round 4 match.

The full court press was in action for the Steel, as they pressured the Steel into turning over the ball. It forced the visitors to think through their passes more throughly and therefore have more time in possession, but struggle to build any ascendancy. The Steel ended up committing 23 turnovers to 16, as the Stars picked up 10 intercepts and 16 gains, compared to the Steel’s four and 10 respectively.

In what was a dominant performance, the Stars were running at an 85 per cent rate for centre pass to gaol, whilst the Steel were lower with two thirds of their centre passes resulting in goals. The control that the Stars had was evident, with the finals-bound side not making any changes until the final term. The starting seven got them out to a 12-goal lead, and by the sixth minute of the final term, Mila Reuelu-Buchanan came off for a rest, allowing Emma Iversen 10 minutes of court time. Other changes saw Amorangi Malesala and Greer Sinclair replace Jamie Hume and Elle Temu respectively.

The Steel on the other hand had to shuffle the magnets many times over the course of the match, unable to really gain too much ascendancy against the pressure of the Stars. After late in the first term – where they scored four consecutive goals after slipping eight behind (5-13), it was hard to string multiple goals together. They did stick with them as little as two goals and even four goals with five and a half minutes left in the second term, before Wilson and Hume piled on five consecutive goals to make it a nine-goal buffer, and went on with it from there.

Wilson was the standout under the post, also pulling in a rebound and providing a goal assist, as Hume shot 15 goals from 17 attempts, and had 13 goal assists and one rebound. Providing a terrific and consistent feed through to the shooters, Gina Crampton picked up a game-high 34 goal assists from 56 feeds, as well as an intercept, with Reuelu-Buchanan recording the 14 from 37 and an intercept. In defence, Temu (four intercepts, five gains and two deflections) and Anna Harrison (three intercepts, six gains and seven deflections) went into overdrive.

The usually dominant George Fisher was restricted to 33 goals from 35 attempts, also providing two goal assists. Georgia Heffernan (seven goals from nine attempts and seven goal assists) and Saviour Tui (nine from 13 and 12 goal assists) were the other scorers. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit tried hard in goal defence with two intercepts and two gains, but it would not be enough to get the win.

Northern Stars now await the loser of the Central Pulse and Northern Mystics game to determine who they host in Wednesday’s elimination final, while Southern Steel locks horns with Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic on Saturday in the final game of the regular season.

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