The Mystics had a big task tonight in a humid Trust Stadium against the Southern Steel. Coming off a one goal loss to the Pulse in the first game of the ANZ Premiership the question on everyone’s mind, Could they overcome the Jamaican shooting star and pull off an upset?
With the lethal Silver Ferns combination of the aerially strong Bailey Mes and long bomb specialist Maria Tutaia combining with a dynamic mid court and the wily defender, Anna Harrison there was eager anticipation from the home fans of getting the win over the Steel. Stopping the ball into Fowler-Reid must have been on the mind of the Mystics coaching team during the week and whether the defensive unit could provide enough ball to stay in the game. The Steel have a strong roster throughout with strong combinations in each area of the court.
Starting line ups:
Mystics: GS – Bailey Mes, GA – Maria Tutaia, WA – Elisapeta Toeava, C – Sasha Corbin, WD – Brooke Watt, GD – Michaela Sokolich-Beatson
Southern Steel: GS – Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, GA – Te Paea Selby-Rickit, WA – Gina Crampton, C – Shannon Francois, WD – Wendy Frew, GD – Te Huinga Selby-Rickit, GK – Jane Watson
The Mystics began with Corbin playing at centre; she combined with Toeava in a display of slick passing to Tutaia who finished off with her typical long rang shot. The Steel responded each time with structured play to their holding shooter Fowler-Reid to ensure they were always in touch with the Mystics. Harrison and Sokolich-Beaston had the job for the Mystics of containing the Jamaican goal shooter, and at times were successful at disrupting her shot.
However, Fowler-Reid’s height advantage ensured the Steel continued to add to the score sheet. The steels defensive combination of Silver Fern Jane Watson and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit worked tirelessly together and were rewarded with three intercepts and eight deflections in the first quarter. The defensive pressure (or maybe the humidity) also affected the accuracy of Tutaia’s shot with five missed shots of her first 11 attempts. Fortunately for the Mystics fans, Bailey Mes strength under the post managed to pull in three rebounds. A missed shot from Bailey Mes with five seconds remaining allowed the Steel to go into the first break 18-16 ahead at the first quarter break.
This game was providing exactly what many fans had hoped. A closely contested match, to keep fans on the edge of their seat. The flair and speed at which the mystics displayed at times was breath-taking to watch, and their connection to a leaping Mes had many Mystic fans believing a win was within grasp. The Steel continued to play to their strengths, a tenacious defensive, and controlled play through their strong midcourt and into Fowler-Reid. With both teams trying to minimise errors each team had to make the most of any opportunity they were given. The Mystics took the second quarter 19-18, and then the Steel returned the favour in the third.
As the fourth quarter began the Steel had a two-goal advantage. An intercept from the Toeava near the transverse line was the start the Mystics coach would have been wanting, and the break they needed to get back into the game levelling the game at 55-all. However, the Mystics could not apply the pressure when required and sloppy errors from Nathan and missed shots from Tutaia in the final quarter allowed the Steel to break out to a five-goal lead with two and a half minutes remaining on the clock. As the clock wound down so did the mystics chances of taking the win from the Steel. The Steel pushing through in the last minutes to seal a 74-67 win over the Mystics.
The fact that the Mystics were not able to stay within the five goals to secure a bonus point will most likely be a topic of discussion during training this week. They came to play for three and a half quarters, and would be happy with the development of their midcourt. The defensive unit managed to get enough turnover ball to win the game, however missed shots at the end of the game mean they now head into round three of the ANZ Premiership without a victory.
Toeava was exciting and dynamic with 37 feeds and Bailey Mes is continually growing in confidence shooting 39/43 and grabbing seven rebounds. Anna Harrison continually tried to use all the tricks in her bag to get turn over ball, and constantly put her body on the line and sometimes on the floor. Her acting skills (or lack of) was entertaining, although Umpire Garth Fowler was not as easily fooled and gestured with a shake of his head as she flew backwards on court. Next time Anna, a cape may come in handy rather than a bib.
The Steel are showing that they are serious contenders to the ANZ Premiership this year with players across the court stepping up. The introduction of New Zealand 21 and Under defender Abby Erwood in the second half added some spark into the defensive line up for the Steel and provided a crucial intercept in the closing stages of the game to snuff out the embers of a mystics revival. Jhaniele Fowler-Reid is the scoring machine for the Steel and coming up with ways to stop her must be a headache for all of the ANZ Premiership coaches and players alike.
Southern Steel 74 def Northern Mystics 67
Player of the Match: Shannon Francois (Steel)
Fowler-Reid 59/68 87%
Selby-Rickit 15/20 75%
Bailey Mes 29/43 91%
Maria Tutaia 28/39 72%