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Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel v The Stars – Round 9

June 8, 2024

It’s fair to say the stars did not align for the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel in Auckland today – losing 63-46 against the previously winless Stars.

It’s a bitter blow for the southerners, suffering a second consecutive heavy defeat and proving unable to halt their opponents when it counted most.

After a promising start, the Steel failed to stop significant scoring sprees of seven unanswered goals in both of the opening two quarters, putting a dent in their progress on the scoreboard.

Former Steel defender Kate Burley was a menace throughout the clash, while Stars captain Maia Wilson reigned supreme in the shooting circle.

Steel captain Kate Heffernan was disappointed in the performance.

“It was just a bit of disconnect. We let players like Kate Burley get touches to the ball and we really struggled with that middle pop that Maia was doing. They were really connected and played really well together and we just didn’t manage to shut them down on defence,” she said.

“We turned over a bit too much ball on attack which was the same problem last week and that’s disappointing but we will learn.”

Wilson was understandably rapt to finally chalk up a win.

“Absolutely stoked. It’s been a long time coming and I’m really proud of the passion and emotion that’s happened in our camp this week to be able to really consolidate that,” she said.

“This is a game we needed to win … for our team morale.”

With both teams struggling at the foot of the table, the win helped the Stars leapfrog the Steel into fifth place after pocketing six bonus points, for finishing with five goals, leading into opening clash of Round 9.

The home side continued to gather momentum throughout the match, outplaying their opposites across all facets of the game while building a handsome advantage.

The Steel provided a more even contest in the final 15 minutes but by then, the damage had been done, the loss of key players proving an on-going headache for the southerners.

Superior shooting at one end, where Wilson was an invaluable contributor with 49 from 52, an impressive defensive unit at the other, able to provide a constant flow of defensive gains and a tidy midcourt all played a key hand in the Stars first win of the season.

The Steel’s shooting accuracy was off-beam through the match while having 14 less attempts than their opponents was also a telling factor.

Holly Mather was elevated from the Comets to the Stars starting line-up at centre, filling the gap left by Mila Reuelu-Buchanan, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season with injury. Mather was joined in the Stars midcourt by sister Lisa at wing defence.

The Steel started with the familiar line-up of recent weeks, including recent signing Serina Daunakamakama at wing attack and Abby Lawson at goal defence.

The visitors’ stole an early march to take a four-goal before the Stars slipped into their groove with a decisive response. Unhinged early by some wayward long feeds, the Stars found their range to peel off nine unanswered goals while pushing themselves into a position of control.

In-circle defenders Holly Fowler and Burley were busy in picking off extra possession while at the other end, Wilson was as steady as a rock under the home side’s hoop alongside long-range specialist Amorangi Malesala as the Stars leapt into a 17-10 lead at the first break.

The home side repeated their efforts of the first quarter when getting away to a wobbly start and handing the Steel the perfect opportunity to claw their way back.

Reducing the gap to just three early on, the Steel were unable to maintain a consistent attacking momentum while accuracy under the hoop also proved problematic.

The Stars defensive hustle unsettled the Steel’s progress while the home side’s re-jigged attack line clicked in impressive fashion. Wilson was in dominant mood under the hoop, carrying the shooting load with a successful 24 from 25 while propelling the Stars to a handy 32-22 lead at the main break.

Struggling with accuracy and getting the ball to their shooters, local player, Summer Temu, adding cover on the Steel’s bench, was introduced early in the third quarter. But the ever-present and athletic abilities of defensive duo Burley and Fowler ensured a difficult day at the office continued for the southerners.

There were no such problems for the home side on attack, finding an easy passage through court to goal with the Steel defenders having few answers to stalling the impetus.

The Stars enjoyed several runs of successive goals to keep widening the margin as the home side took a comfortable 47-33 lead into the last turn.

Official Result and Stats:

Stars: 63
Ascot Park Hotel Steel: 46

Shooting Stats - Stars:
Maia Wilson 49/52 (94%)
Amorangi Malesala 10/12 (83%)
Monica Falkner 3/4 (75%)
Rahni Samason 1/4 (25%)

Shooting Stats - Steel:
Grace Namana 21/26 (81%)
Georgia Heffernan 14/21 (67%)
Summer Temu 11/11 (100%)

ANZ Fans' Player of the Match: Kate Burley


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