It's been a rare case of 13th time lucky for the Robinhood Stars as they opened their ANZ Premiership campaign with a 57-53 victory over the defending champion Te Wānanga o Raukawa Pulse in Palmerston North.
The win was the Stars' first ever over the Pulse in 13 attempts since their inception in 2016.
Bookended by stand-out performances from captain Maia Wilson in the shooting circle and former Silver Fern Anna Harrison on defence, the Stars held their nerve in a tense and physical final few minutes.
Wilson remained persistent under intense pressure from the Pulse defence and her workload and movement in the circle was pivotal in a tight fourth spell as she netted 44 of her 50 attempts at goal.
Harrison was outstanding in her much anticipated return to the ANZ Premiership and was a nuisance on defence for the whole contest.
Her long levers and timing put the Pulse shooting circle under all sorts of pressure as she finished with four deflections and two intercepts for a most valuable player performance.
With six new players in the Stars side and international experience across the court, much has been made about the chances of the Kiri Wills coached side this year.
The Stars showcased their speed of ball up front and opened up a challenging 20-12 lead in the opening quarter with new recruit Gina Crampton punching through to the circle edge and finding her shooters with ease.
Faced with closing a sizeable gap, the Pulse made the best possible start to the second stanza scoring off a turnover and quickly converting their own centre pass as they stayed in the contest.
The Pulse remained within striking distance and a flurry of goals near the end of the first half again closed the gap to 26-30 by halftime.
Harrison’s nuisance value lifted again in the third quarter as she disrupted Aliyah Dunn’s shooting radar and the Stars maintained a slender advantage, leading 45-39 with one spell to play.
A run of three goals with just over five minutes left in the game gave the Pulse a faint sniff at victory.
However, the Stars ramped up their defensive pressure and showed poise in the shooting circle to secure a four-goal triumph.
Focus now shifts to next Sunday's first Stars home game against the Mainland Tactix at Pulman Arena.