Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel defeated 50-70 by MG Mystics - March 21, 2022
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel was dealt a tough blow, defeated 70-50 by a sublime the MG Mystics at ILT Stadium Southland tonight.
Forced to reshuffle its starting lineup due to injuries to shooter George Fisher and midcourter Renee Savai’inaea, the southerners faced a daunting task from the outset against the ANZ Premiership’s defending champions.
Staring down a 10-goal deficit after a forgettable opening spell, Steel eventually managed to venture back within six before again succumbing to the energetic impetus the Mystics thrived on.
Despite some sporadic individual efforts deserving of kudos – particularly from dogged defender Kate Burley – collectively inconsistency plagued the Steel and ultimately proved its downfall.
Steel captain Shannon Saunders was candid in her assessment.
“We need to take personal responsibility. Myself, I did about 10 errors out there which is not good enough. We each need to do our own job out there which we just didn’t do today,” she told Sky Sport.
“It was just basic errors – that’s the type of stuff we can’t afford to do.
“We needed to be smarter with the ball.”
When the Steel did manage to string a run of goals together, the momentum was fleeting.
“That’s something we need to look at. It’s good that we can bring it back but we need consolidate … we need to be able to absorb the pressure,” Saunders said.
“We just need to look at ourselves to be honest. Cut out the player errors, do our own job better and I think we’ll be fine.”
It was the first time in ANZ Premiership history the MG Mystics have defeated the Steel at home in its southern fortress. The last time the Mystics were successful in the Steel’s home city was 2015 in the trans-Tasman league.
After allowing the Mystics a 10-goal advantage in the first quarter, the Steel couldn’t pull it back despite hard graft through court in the middle two quarters.
But through the leadership by example of both Fitzpatrick and Michaela Sokolich-Beatson, the visiting side went into overdrive in the final 15 minutes.
This game marked the return of Karaka in the Mystics defence, and she and Fitzpatrick instantly made the impact they are internationally renowned for.
With Fisher on the Steel bench for the first quarter, nursing a knee injury, the Mystics defence dominated the young Steel shooters Saviour Tui and Georgia Heffernan.
It was a different looking Steel attack, with captain Shannon Saunders beginning at centre, and Ali Wilshier at wing attack - as Savai’inaea was out of contention this week with a hamstring problem.
Grace Nweke was cleverly fed by her attacking trio, and in spite of the gutsy efforts of Steel goal defence Kate Burley – using her insider knowledge from last season with the Mystics – the visitors established a six-goal lead halfway through the quarter, which extended to 10 goals, 19-9, at the first break.
Monica Falkner is finding her feet in the Mystics shooting line-up, using her speed in and out of the circle and putting up some perfect long-range shots.
Fisher came on for the second quarter, and immediately made a difference. Tui moving to goal attack gave her confidence too.
While the Mystics grew their lead to 15 at one point in the second spell, the Steel reeled it back to draw the quarter, trailing 32-22 at halftime.
Peta Toeava was injected into the game at wing attack to start the third quarter, with Filda Vui replacing Falkner (who’d shot 10 from 11) at goal attack.
It was a much more decisive Steel who returned to the court, and with Burley switching with Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit to sit back on Nweke at goal keep, they closed the gap to six.
Karaka was in and out of the game after a heavy fall, with young defender Carys Stythe given an opportunity to show her skills in the Mystics defence. But there was no doubting the strength of Karaka and Fitzpatrick, teaming up with Sokolich-Beatson at wing defence, and how quickly the score would swing back in the Mystics favour when they were together.
It was reflected on the scoreboard at the end of the third quarter, the Mystics back in control up 47-35.
Toeava’s incredible range of skills were on show, and her understanding with Nweke is unrivalled; the goal shoot sinking 50 from 52 attempts. Sokolich-Beatson was a critical cog in the Mystics machine, and with some trademark intercepts from Fitzpatrick, the score difference was pushed well outside the Steel’s reach.
Official Result and Stats:
Ascot Park Hotel Steel: 50
MG Northern Mystics: 70
Shooting Stats - Steel:
George Fisher 24/28 (86%)
Saviour Tui 19/25 (76%)
Georgia Heffernan 7/10 (70%)
Shooting Stats - Mystics:
Grace Nweke 50/52 (96%)
Filda Vui 10/11 (91%)
Monica Falkner 10/12 (83%)
MVP: Sulu Fitzpatrick (Mystics)