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Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v Stars – round four

May 4, 2024

713 days. There’s no denying it’s a long time between victory celebrations.

Tonight, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel delivered in epic fashion with an extra-time thriller finally putting an end to an almost two-year drought.

Snatching a 63-61 win over the Stars, the southerners proved the fight within their ranks to overcome an 8-goal deficit to level the odds at fulltime and send the game to an overtime duel.

At times stunned into silence by the Stars domination, the home crowd found its voice when it counted and fuelled the Steel’s momentum in the crucial stages.

Responding with renewed energy, the determination from the Steel was unmistakable as they unleashed a finish to be proud of.

Steel captain Kate Heffernan was buoyed by the outcome.

“It’s been a tough season and a half but we’ve been working so hard and it’s cool to actually finally get the reward for that,” she said.

“To do it in front of this crowd and these fans – they are just the absolute best and we are so grateful that they keep turning up so it’s amazing to be able to give them a win.”

The message heading into the important final phase was a simple one.

“We talked about just doing our own job and that’s all we can do. We have each other’s backs by doing that and you could see that in the last quarter where we were chasing loose balls and looking out for each other. It’s really awesome to see that happening.”

Stars captain Maia Wilson was left ruing what might have been as her team remains winless in the 2024 ANZ Premiership.

“I think there was a bit of complacency in that last quarter … I’m a bit speechless and lost for words because this is really frustrating as a captain. Well done to the Steel being able to grind that game out but, in my opinion, we should never have let that happen. This is repetitive every round … so we need to figure this out pretty quickly to be fair.”

Scenes of euphoria erupted at the conclusion of the match after a terrific contest between two teams battling for their first win of the season. It was the Steel who produced the most compelling of comebacks when forcing the game into extra-time, turning an eight-goal deficit at the start of the final quarter into a dramatic 58-all stand-off at the end of regulation time.

That required two periods of three-minutes each way of extra-time, the jubilant Steel handling the pressure and enormity of the situation with more poise than their opposites and failing to buckle as they went on to clinch their first win in the ANZ Premiership since May 22, 2022.

Dominating the first and third quarters, the Stars went off the boil in the second and fourth quarters, letting a golden opportunity slip through their grasp in failing to nail home their last quarter advantage as the tenacious Steel produced the most stirring of fightbacks.

In registering their first win, the Steel left the Stars as the only winless team, the visitors left with a third success bonus point for finishing within five goals.

The home side started with their settled seven of recent weeks, including the international pairing of Kate Heffernan and Shannon Saunders in the midcourt.

The Stars gave impressive young training partner Summer Temu her second straight start, the goal shoot pairing up with captain Maia Wilson, who once again started from goal attack.

It was the visitors who made the hottest of starts. Fluid and accurate on attack, the Stars provided the ball on a plate for Temu and Wilson while full-court defensive pressure put the squeeze on the Steel’s attacking momentum.

That was further enhanced by the mobility and speed of in-circle defenders Holly Fowler and Kate Burley, who did a fine job in disrupting the Steel’s shooters.

Skipping out to a five-goal lead, the visitors were threatening to stretch out further but a late home team rally reduced the deficit with the Stars taking a 16-13 lead into the first break while posting their first winning opening quarter of the season.

The Steel came out strongly on the resumption with the shooter-to-shooter link between Grace Namana and Georgia Heffernan starting to pay dividends. Finding their timing and connectivity, the pair gave the supportive crowd plenty to crow about when levelling up the scores with five minutes of the stanza to go.

In response, the Stars introduced new mum Monica Falkner into the goal attack role with Wilson moving back to goal shoot. At the other, in a bid to stem the flow, the visitors re-jigged their defence line with the rangy figure of Lili Tokaduadua coming off the bench and into goalkeeper.

There was nothing to separate the teams, both having 33 attempts at goal during the first half as the sides went to the main break locked together at 29-apiece.

The Steel broke the deadlock in the opening exchanges of the third quarter, showing all their renowned grit, determination and ball retention abilities to build a three-goal buffer.

The Stars’ response was swift, levelling up inside a minute of play before unleashing a decisive and telling momentum swing. Their anchors at each end of the court, Wilson playing a peerless role under the hoop with her movement and accuracy while at the other end, teenaged goalkeeper Tokaduadua came up with a couple of big turnovers, allowing the confidence to flow back into the Stars ranks with a productive change in fortune as the Steel’s resistance fell away.

In a complete turnaround, the Stars ended the quarter with a haul of 21 goals compared to the Steel’s 13 to leave them handily-placed when leading 50-42 at the last turn.

Official Result and Stats:

Ascot Park Hotel Steel: 63
Stars: 61
Match tied 58-58 at fulltime

Shooting Stats - Steel:
Grace Namana 44/50 (88%)
Georgia Heffernan 19/25 (76%)

Shooting Stats - Stars:
Maia Wilson 42/46 (91%)
Summer Temu 11/11 (100%)
Monica Falkner 8/11 (73%)

ANZ Fans' Player of the Match: Holly Fowler (Stars)


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