Undefeated Stars too strong for Magic

ANOTHER day, another win as the Northern Stars extended their winning streak to five games straight and continue to be the only undefeated side in the ANZ Premiership competition, comfortably defeating Wakaito Bay of Plenty Magic 61-49.

It was all one-way traffic in the opening quarter with the defensive gauge well and truly dialled up for the Stars as they nullified the influence of Caitlin Bassett immediately. Despite being accurate to post, nailing all six of her shots she could not be sighted with any sort of ease as the midcourt really laboured to penetrate through the Stars’ defensive unit. Up against developing defender, Elle Temu – who is having a season to remember – the Australian was well held as the ball virtually lived up the other end of the court. Anytime the ball ventured into the Magic’s attacking third, Temu was there to halt play and send it hurdling back down the court. Youngster Khiarna Williams had her work cut out for her against one of New Zealand netballs’ tried and tested defenders in Anna Harrison and it showed as the 20-year age gap and experience tilted in favour of the Stars. The combination of Harrison and Temu caused all sorts of headaches for the Magic who were unable to generate any easy passage down the court given the Stars’ smothering defence.

Up the other end, Maia Wilson and Jamie Hume were having a field day as the Stars goalers owned the circle with their strong movement. They got the jump on the Magic early as they knocked back goals with ease and kept their foot on the throat of their opponents throughout the opening term to establish a commanding nine-goal lead. The Stars managed to slot seven of the last 10 goals of the quarter with Wilson playing that strong holding goal shooter role up against the highly aerial Temalisi Fakahokotau who was working in overdrive to try and disrupt the Stars’ rhythm in attack.

Holding all the momentum heading into the second term the Stars did not break stride as they quickly added to the scoreboard. The influence of Gina Crampton out the front was profound with the new recruit slicing up the court with her clever drives and impeccable timing while her partnership with Mila Reuelu-Buchanan to balance the circle was second to none. Their workrate around circle edge kept the Magic guessing as the Stars pair used their speed to make the defenders heads turn and gift Wilson and Hume easy access to the post.

Looking for an answer in attack, Waikato Bay of Plenty rung in the changes with Williams sent to the bench and Chiara Semple entering the fray. Her composure and smarts proved to be exactly what the home side needed as she attacked the ball with great confidence and took some of the heat off Bassett under the post. But the Stars made changes of their own with dynamic defender Oceane Maihi injected into the thick of things and utilising her leap to create a wealth of deflections. Her height and energy was imperative as the Stars looked to combat her ball winning abilities further tinkering with their line-up to push Bassett to the bench in the dying stages of the quarter.

With an 11-goal margin the new look Magic frontline of Williams and Semple started to fire as did captain Sam Winders. They came out of the half-time break with a point to prove sinking three goals in a row as Winders threw herself at everything to get hands to ball and create options for the Magic. That spark filtered into defence with Fakahokotau reeling in a huge rebound and Erena Mikaere getting involved with her long arms as they pegged away at the margin to get back within six goals. With the Stars building a wealth of momentum and having things their own way down in attack the Stars brought Harrison back onto the court with her long arms wreaking havoc.

With the home crowd behind them, the Magic fans rode every bump and every pass and with Wilson’s radar marginally off it provided a chance for them to capitalise. Georgie Edgecombe upped the intensity in defence forcing Crampton and Reuelu-Buchanan to bunch together while Mikaere ran rampant. The Magic showcased their class to capitalise off their turnovers as Williams dictated the space in the goal circle and spurred her side back into contention as only four goals separated the two sides. Life was not easy for the Stars attack who were under a wealth of pressure on each and every pass but in the end the visitors still held the upper hand as the composure of Wilson stood tall.

The fourth was a better quarter for the Stars who had been beaten by the Magic in the third as they monopolised the opening few minutes of the term. Injury struck with Fakahokotau going down with a suspected ankle roll prompting livewire Georgia Tong to make her way onto the court. She worked tirelessly to combat the physicality and height of Wilson while up the other end Tori Kolose found plenty of space against Lisa Mather to thread the ball into Williams and Semple. With the game all but won and done Greer Sinclair and Amorangi Malesala made their way onto the court as the Stars continued to chug along nicely to secure their fifth win of the season.

Wilson led all-comers with 43 goals but was down on her accuracy converting at 84 per cent while Hume was influential to post with 18 goals but so too with ball in hand racking up seven goal assists. Crampton had the ball on a string in attack notching up 21 goal assists while defensively Temu was a shining light amassing six gains and three intercepts. Harrison also showed her hand picking up two intercepts and two deflections. Williams and Semple both finished on 19 goals from 23 attempts at 83 per cent in a solid effort while in Bassett’s half of netball she managed 11 from 12. Mikaere and Fakahokotau were strong collecting a combined eight gains as Winders produced 12 goal assists.

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