The Northern Stars ended their season on a high after beating the Southern Steel 65-59 tonight at Pulman Arena, South Auckland.
The Steel had the luxury of knowing they’d already secured a home elimination final playoff, whereas the Stars were playing for pride.
Earlier in the season the Steel secured two close wins in the South Island, but South Auckland turned on the after burners for their home team, playing a crucial 8th player role to get their side over the finish line.
Maia Wilson and Paula Griffin had their best combined shooting accuracy of the season.
Wilson was successful with 42/45 attempts (93% accuracy) and Griffin contributing 23/25 (92% accuracy).
Both Stars and Steel attacking ends easily found their shooters early in the match, but it was the Stars who edged out to a two-goal lead.
Captain Grace Kara, assisted by Anna Thompson, marshalled her attacking end with slick ball movement and pace.
The defensive end of Holly Fowler, Ama Agbeze and Kate Burley toiled hard to try and create errors in the solid Steel shooting circle.
The Southerners were without their regular goal shoot Jennifer O’Connell for the match and started with Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Olivia Bates.
In a high scoring first quarter it was Selby-Rickit who pulled her team back into contention, landing a mid-range shot to level the scores 15 all at the break.
The Steel came out with guns blazing in the second quarter as errors crept into the Stars game, helping the visitors to a 28-31 half time lead.
A much hungrier Stars outfit turned up in the third quarter, playing with urgency on defence and fluidity on attack.
Their improved efforts had the Stars ahead 48-46 with fifteen minutes left in the match.
Both teams traded goals in the final quarter until a flurry of defensive turnovers from Burley and Agbeze with 7 minutes remaining in the match ignited the team and the crowd into cheers and applause.
Fowler was at her menacing best, causing turnovers in crucial moments every time the Steel looked like they were they were about to make a late comeback, as they’d done so in previous rounds.
It was the fourth win for the Stars in an injury plagued season. Their final place on the ANZ Premiership ladder will be determined tomorrow night when the Tactix take on the Magic in Hamilton.