The Northern Stars caused an upset in the first match of the 2019 ANZ Premiership season, defeating the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel 66-64 on Super Sunday in Hamilton.
Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Temepara Bailey combined attacking flair with pinpoint feeding into Maia Wilson and Ellen Halpenny who combined for an 89% shooting accuracy (66/74).
Wilson shot an impressive 51 from 57 attempts in a player of the match performance.
Two early intercepts from Ruelu-Buchanan signalled the Stars hunger for possession from the outset with Bailey marshalling the troops from center.
Ruelu-Buchanan also topped the stats sheet in feeds (35), goal assists (24) and was third in centre pass receives behind Steel’s Gina Crampton (18) and Te Paea Selby-Rickit (17).
Head coach Kiri Wills was happy with the Stars composure down the home stretch.
“The Steel are renowned for their fight back and I’m happy we showed composure in that final quarter and come away with a win,” said Wills.
An intercept after being on court for only thirty seconds marked the return of Kayla Cullen to the ANZ Premiership after missing the 2018 season.
Cullen who replaced Holly Fowler just before half time, combined well with captain Leana De Bruin and Storm Purvis, with the trio often suffocating space for the Steel attack to work into.
De Bruin was quick to point to the teams all-round defensive effort which set a strong foundation for defence to pick up turn over ball.
“We’ve got to take what we did well today and celebrate that, but also look at things that need improving and work on that, but we’ve set a benchmark and we’ll only get better,” said De Bruin.
De Bruin also added that changes made by Wills, who introduced Tori Kolose and Charlee Hodges into the match, shoes the strength of their entire team.
“That’s a real asset of our team, anyone can come on and perform at any time, I don’t think we’ve had that in the past”.
De Bruin added, “Charlee did really well in coming on and wanting the ball and Tori was great when Temepara was having a little rest, they really stood up”.
The Northern Stars will next take on the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic tomorrow night at Claudelands Arena from 7.40pm.
The Northern Stars first home game will be on Wednesday 6th March at Pulman Arena from 7.40pm. Tickets available here