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Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v MG Mystics – Rd 13

July 7, 2024

Ignore the score. It isn’t a fair reflection of the gutsy effort the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel delivered against the MG Mystics in Auckland.

From the outset, the Southerners were determined to make an impact and, with the exception of an occasional lapse, played with a renewed intensity to force some uncharacteristic errors from the defending champions.

The 68-47 winning margin propelled the Mystics into third on the ANZ Premiership ladder as the battle for a spot in the Finals Series heats up but the home side was made to work for every goal.

Steel defenders Taneisha Fifita and Abby Lawson delivered a gallant performance, ably supported by Renee Savai’inaea. Fifita in particular was a herculean force against the Mystics 1.93m towering target of goal shoot Grace Nweke, undoubtedly winning in the mental stakes.

At the opposite end of the court, Steel shooters Grace Namana and Georgia Heffernan were forced to get creative to contend with some smothering defence and were often rewarded for a patient approach.

The match wasn’t without its tension but the niggles added an element of entertainment and was testament to the hunger from both teams.

Reinforcing her reputation as a reliable leader and pivotal link in the midcourt, Steel captain Kate Heffernan was a deserved recipient of the ANZ Fans’ Player of the Match honours.

“There are definitely some positives we can take from this but we just let them get away and they’re a quality side who can score so fast. We talked about at the start so it’s disappointing we let them do that and, in most of the quarters, they had a pretty big run where they did exactly that,” she said.

“We will take the positives, we just have to string it together a little bit better. It’s just a little bit of connection. We look at each other for something, whereas we need to take control and do it ourselves and that will bring each other out of the pit we are in. It’s just getting connection somehow.”

The Steel will host the Stars in Dunedin on Monday, 15 July, for a round 14 showdown.

“It’s one apiece this season for us and we know we can beat them. There’s some really good stuff out there, we just need to string it together for longer and bounce back when we do have those wee lulls. We know we can and we just need to take that belief into the game,” Heffernan said.

As they push for a finals berth, the Mystics took the opportunity for all team members to get valuable court-time while nabbing their biggest win of the season against the Steel.

Continuing their successful return from lengthy injury lay-offs, key personnel Peta Toeava, wing attack, and Nweke, were named for a second straight week in the Mystics starting line-up while the Steel presented with a familiar starting seven of recent weeks.

After a quiet start, the Mystics continued to flex their muscle through the ensuing three-quarters while pushing into a position of dominance. Making the most of their extra possession, the Mystics enjoyed 21 more shots at goal than the Steel with Nweke’s return proving fruitful after nailing 40 shots from 44 attempts during her time on court.

Steel shooter Namana made the most of her opportunities with a 25 from 27 return.

Through the busy play of Kate Heffernan and her midcourt partner Renee Savai’inaea, the Steel made an enterprising start during the opening exchanges as the teams went goal-for-goal.

It took the highly-fancied Mystics half the quarter to poke their noses in front with Nweke taking time to settle and the Steel providing plenty of hustle.

A late burst helped the Mystics gain the jump when leading 16-12 at the first break.

With Toeava rested for the rest of the match, there was a Mystics reshuffle on the resumption. Tayla Earle, who turned on an accomplished outing, took over the reins at wing attack, Katie Te Ao came on at centre and Filda Vui into goal attack.

On the back of some fine feeding from Te Ao, Earle and Vui, Nweke became a prominent force, the Mystics finding their flow on attack.

Contesting well and having some fine moments of their own, the Steel were frustrated by soft turnovers which continued to put them on the back foot as the home side tightened their grip.

Vui, at the attack end, and defender Phoenix Karaka at the other, were strong contributors for the Mystics. Nweke took a seat with five minutes to go, replaced by Hannah Glen, the Mystics retaining their control with a late surge to lead 33-23 at the main break.

The third quarter mirrored the second with the Steel competing gamely on even terms for much of the 15 minutes before the Mystics put a closing stamp on proceedings to reinforce their control.

Interchanging their shooting circle through the stanza with Dani Binks, Glen, Vui and Nweke all having on-court minutes, the Mystics showcased their ability under the hoop either with a holding or mobile circle.

Once again, the Steel had their moments in making the Mystics earn their keep but a lack of consistency counted against them. Making their first change late in the quarter with Jeante Strydom coming on for Fifita, it remained an uphill battle for the visitors.

Five straight goals for the home side to end the quarter left the Mystics well in the driver’s seat when leading 50-34 at the last turn.

The Steel made a bright opening to the final quarter, showing their spirit with a five-goal run but were left with too much work to make serious inroads against a well-credentialled Mystics side.

Official Result and Stats:

MG Mystics:
Ascot Park Hotel Steel: 47

Shooting Stats - Mystics:
Grace Nweke 40/44 (90%)
Filda Vui 17/17 (100%)
Hannah Glen 6/7 (85%)
Dani Binks 5/8 (63%)

Shooting Stats - Steel:
Grace Namana 25/27 (92%)
Georgia Heffernan 21/27 (78%)
Summer Temu 1/1 (100%)

ANZ Fans' Player of the Match: Kate Heffernan


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