Stars sit seamlessly for finals

THE Northern Stars have come out victorious with an 11-goal win (47 – 58) over the still winless Southern Steel.

The Stars entered this game historically having their best quarter in the third, and this game proved to be no different with a 10 – 18 game solidifier. The Stars were able to capitalise on the Steel’s turnovers with five unanswered goals in a row, and saw the lead turn from three to eight in the blink of an eye.

The Steel have a season average of 42.6 goals per game, which has been increased over the last few weeks with them finally finding the form they have been looking for all season.

Desperate for another three points, the Stars are pushing for playoff position as well as denying the Tactix to climb up the ladder and take that third position with only one round remaining of the regular home and away season.

It was a battle between the centres with both Silver Ferns Kate Heffernan and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan having outstanding seasons for their respective teams. Heffernan is more of a defensive centre with her dominant position being wing defence, whereas Reuelu-Buchanan is an attacker through and through with wing attack being her first position in underage teams.

Player of the match Reuelu-Buchanan well and truly won that battle with Heffernan having a quieter game to her standard. With Silver Ferns selections just around the corner, Reuelu-Buchanan is putting her hand up high in the air after tonight’s performance over shoe-in selection in Heffernan.

Reuelu-Buchanan was doing the basics in attack well, upping her defensive game and staying relatively clean and away from the whistle. Her transition from defence into attack is unlike any other and her ball speed is outstanding, not allowing the Stars defenders to even think. She barely spent a second with the ball on a centre pass, giving to the first option and getting 12-second phase received as well as 60 feeds, 28 goal assists and four pickups. 

The Steel were on a hiatus in the first term, letting the Stars go on a seven goal run whilst stuck on two goals for 5:25. The hot area for the Steel was between the transverse line and the circle edge in their attacking third, causing a lot of panic amongst the players at some points where they had to pass the ball back really far.

Stars defenders were putting enormous pressure on the Steel, forcing the ball to go back to the transverse line or even further back. A brain fade in the fourth quarter forced a pass into Saviour Tui (35 goals), but Elle Temu (six gains, six deflections, two intercepts, two rebounds) had the front space and got the intercept and contact call. This ordeal felt like it was never going to end with the Stars completely shutting down their opposition and not risking a fly and leaving their player alone if they did not come up with possession.

The Stars midcourters allowed the ball to do the work for them in attack while working the angles as well as the use of the triangle to open players up as an option. They had 91 circle edge feeds compared to the Steel’s 44, this shows how impactful their centre pass conversion rate was with 79 percent.

Maia Wilson (42) had a near-perfect shooting game, slotting 35 goals from 35 until the first attempt of the fourth quarter, her only miss. Her strength in the air was perfectly matched up with the aerial skills of Steel’s Kate Burley, with both players bringing the physicality and the tight contest in the circle.

A late fightback from the Steel saw them take home the fourth quarter by one, but all the damage was done in the third with the Stars extending the gap between them and the Tactix, whereas the Steel are wanting to end their season on a high and add a win to their tally over a hopeful Magic outfit.

Mainland Tactix (65) defeated Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic (56)

A dominant 20 – 12 second quarter performance by the Tactix pushed the Magic to their limits gaining an 11 goal half time lead. It was an extremely accurate game for all shooters on court with only four goals missed across the four shooters. Player of the match Kimiora Poi did everything for the Tactix from getting the ball into the circle accurately and winning the ball back for her side. Her four deflections, 21 goal assists and one turnover made her a sheer presence all over the court and the confidence in her teammates to give her the ball knowing she would make the most out of it.

Former circle defender Georgie Edgecombe has made her new position of centre her own, building a strong connection with her fellow midcourters, being the glue between the Magic’s defence and attack. Her new attacking knowledge works in her favour with her natural defensive brain knowing what the opposition wants to do, so she knows how to combat those strategies and how to defend the player or space. A goal for goal second half hurt the Magic as they were not able to win the ball and score down the other end with the Tactix playing safe to make sure they win by a considerable margin to help their overall goal percentage on the ladder.

Central Pulse (62) defeated Northern Mystics (56)

The Pulse have overtaken the ladder-leading Mystics with a dominant 19 – 9 first quarter. The Pulse defenders kept Grace Nweke to just six goals in the first term, and five turnovers compared to their one. Player of the match Maddy Gordon did a mountain of work in attack earning herself 36 feeds, 26 goal assists and two gains. She also caused the mystics to change their centre multiple times throughout the game, who had no way of stopping the in-form centre. Michaela Sokolich-Beatson was the go-to ball-getter for the Mystics, getting four deflections, three gains and two intercepts. A hard-fighting Mystics still have two more games to play next round, helping their chances of regaining top position, but it will be close.

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