NORTHERN Stars have capitalised against a determined but understrength Southern Steel team that had to shuffle the magnets in the wake of key shooter, Jennifer O’Connell‘s injury. Despite the Steel coming close and giving the Stars a scare, the fourth quarter again proved to be the Steel’s downfall. The Stars, on the other hand, looked composed, fluent in attack, dogged in defense and are showing great form in Round 5, eventually getting the points in a 48-39 victory.
The Stars opened the game with determination and seemed to relish the opportunity to get their revenge for their Round 3 loss. Steel were working with a new shooting partnership of Kalifa McCollin at goal shooter and the youngster Kiana Pelasio getting the start at goal attack. This combination took a while to settle in which heaped pressure on Shannon Saunders and Gina Crampton to dictate play and keep creating opportunities. There was hesitance in the Steel’s attacking end, and Storm Purvis and the Stars punished the Steel’s nervous start by getting out to an early lead. The contrast between the shooting partnerships was clear: Stars were well oiled, presenting holding and moving options, and Maia Wilson was backing herself at the post. A timely surge from the Steel midcourt towards the end of the first quarter brought the score back to within one, and the Stars kept a narrow lead of 12-11 going into the break.
Both teams started the second quarter with intensity, and there was a sense that the game was very much up for grabs. A fierce battle was developing between plucky Georgia Heffernan and Stars’ captain Grace Kara, who was having to work hard to shake the tenacious wing defence. Miscommunication hampered the Steel’s attacking efforts and the Stars made no mistake at the post. Te Huinga Selby-Rickit and Taneisha Fifita were struggling to have an impact against dominant Wilson, supported by Jamie Hume. As the score crept out to 19-15, there was a sense that the game may start to unravel for Steel. A textbook interception from Kate Burley was answered by a gain from Selby-Rickit and the defence for both teams started to make their presence felt. Coming in at goal keeper for Steel Oceane Maihi had an immediate impact, allowing Purvis to roam and create more turnover ball at goal defense. With seconds remaining, the Steel failed to convert an attacking opportunity and went into half-time trailing by four goals.
After the break, Abby Erwood came into goal defense for Steel with Selby-Rickit slotting into goal keeper, in an attempt to shut down the threat of Wilson who was shooting at 95 per cent. Maihi picked off a poor feed from Crampton and the Stars extended their lead. Steel were still struggling to find their timing in attack, and the midcourt were being effectively held up by Mila Reuelu-Buchanan and Fa’amu Ioane playing at full strength. A change was inevitable for the Steel, resulting in McCollin switching out to goal attack (where she is most comfortable) and Grace Namana making her ANZ debut. As the third quarter progressed, both teams took things up a gear, and it started to get interesting. Steel clawed their way back in and narrowed the gap to just two goals at three quarter time. They were not about to let this game go without a fight.
Unfortunately Steel could not sustain this momentum in the final quarter. In a striking parallel to the previous game against the Pulse, errors in the fourth quarter proved to be the Steel’s downfall. Erwood had a standout quarter at goal defense, and although the partnership between McCollin and Namara was blossoming, it will need a little more time to click. The Steel fought tirelessly to cling on to the scoreline but the impressive hops and dynamism of the Stars defense end proved too much. Reuelu-Buchanan and Iowane were relentless, exploiting the Steel mistakes and really pushing for the win. After a ruthless final quarter, the Stars proved their worth in the competition and ended the game 48-39.
Following an emotional and tiring few games for the Steel, they will be glad of a rest and chance to rebuild. Both teams will take a lot away from this game, and can be proud of the low overall turnover rate – 11 and 10 for Steel and Stars respectively – combined with impressive shooting stats from Wilson and McCollin in particular. Stars are certainly on the rise and will go into their next game against Magic with heaps of confidence following this strong performance.
SOUTHERN STEEL 11 | 9 | 11 | 8 (39)
NORTHERN STARS 12 | 12 | 9 | 15 (48)
GS: Kalifa McCollin
GA: Kiana Pelasio
WA: Gina Crampton
C: Shannon Saunders
WD: Kate Heffernan
GD: Te Huinga Selby-Rickit
GK: Taneisha Fifita
GS: Maia Wilson
GA: Jamie Hume
WA: Grace Kara
C: Mila Reuelu-Buchanan
WD: Lisa Mather
GD: Kate Burley
GK: Storm Purvis