NORTHERN Mystics ended their home and away season on a high, denying Mainland Tactix the chance of hosting the elimination final next week with a four-goal win, 63-59. It was a tight tussle between the two teams but it was the Mystics that held sway for majority of the game and were intent on winning, having already secured their spot in the grand final.
The two goal shooters opened the accounts for their respective sides with Ellie Bird and Grace Nweke hitting the scoreboard in a matter of moments. Te Paea Selby-Rickit had her radar on nice and early for the Tactix alleviating the pressure on Bird while Filda Vui got her first start of the season for the Northern Mystics and did not skip a beat. It was blow for blow in the first five minutes of the game with neither side able to pull away. It was turning into a shooting masterclass with all four goalers out on court more than happy to shoot from absolutely anywhere in the circle and do so at a high accuracy. The Tactix and Mystics were treasuring possession with the first turnover not coming until the six minute mark of the quarter with the Mystics capitalising off the soft hands of Bird.
Jane Watson took advantage of her long limbs to create a turnover and within a blink of an eye the Tactix levelled the score and then stole the lead thanks to their ability to convert off the centre pas. Peta Toeava was having a field day with the wing attack releasing the ball with such confidence. Every time the Tactix seemed to get their noses in front the Mystics found a way to flip the script, extending the lead back out to two goals. a missed shot from Selby-Rickit handed possession back into the hands of the Mystics and they did not muck around with Nweke knocking it down before Vui answered the call moments layer for the Mystics to go into half time up by four goals.
The first couple of minutes of the second quarter well and truly favoured the Tactix slotting five goals in a row to tie things. A couple of big defensive wins started to fall the way of the Tactix as they started to kick into gear and chance down the Mystics. The double defence over the shot was not fazing either of the Mystics shooters as they went on a four goal spree of their own. Kimiora Poi upped the ante for the Tactix especially in attack with the centre working in overdrive to reset play around circle edge. Charlotte Elley was starting to get found out with Toeava showing her hand both in attack and defence as the Mystics skipped out to a whopping seven-goal lead.
Things were starting to fall apart in the attacking end for the Tactix with Samon Nathan unable to find a wealth of space around circle while Elley moved to the bench allowing Sophia Fenwick to enter the fray for the Tactix in wing defence. Claire O’Brien entered the contest for the Mystics with both sides throwing the bibs around to find an extra gear. The wing attack came on with a hot hand and excellent timing around circle edge to help the Mystics maintain that nine goal margin heading into half time.
Both sides made a raft of changes after half time with Erikana Pedersen getting the call-up in wing attack for the Tactix while the experienced Bailey Mes came on in goal attack for the Mystics. The Tactix started to rally scoring three goals in a row but were still a step off the pace. Karin Burger received a warning in what could have proven to be a turning point of the game with the goal defence on high alert but it did not seem to faze her as she went out hunting for ball. Pedersen impressed with her defensive nous to reel in an intercept while her class around circle edge paid off with Bird relishing the pinpoint feeds as they reduced the margin to five goals.
The intensity rose from both sides as they contest hard for each and every pass. Ama Agbeze replaced Kate Burley in goal defence with her long arms and experience having an impact. It was turning into a battle of the goal keepers with Sulu Fitzpatrick starring up one end of the court and Watson down the other with the pair getting hands to ball. It was a mammoth effort from the Tactix as the midcourt defence kicked up a gear and Burger started to become a damaging factor in defence as they reduced the margin from nine to three at three quarter time.
It was a scrappy start to the final quarter with a couple of errant passes marring the opening minutes. The connection between Mes and Nweke was something special as the Mystics increased the margin to five and did not look like taking their foot off the pedal. Phoenix Karaka got some valuable court time for the Mystics out in goal defence as they continued to tick along and grind out the game to secure a hard fought win with Fa’amu Ioane also proving to be a key cog in the defensive unit with her constant pressure.
Bird was as strong as ever under the post nailing 42 goals from 44 attempts at an impressive 96 per cent while Selby-Rickit lacked that level of accuracy shooting at 68 per cent thanks to her 17 goals from 25 attempts but managed 15 goal assists. Pedersen was solid with her 15 goal assists while defensively the combination of Burger and Watson picked up five gains and three deflections. Nweke was unstoppable once again producing a whopping 49 goals from 51 attempts as Vui also starred with her 11 from 13. Toeava led the charge with her 17 goal assists as Earle also imposed herself with 15 goal assists and two gains. Fitzpatrick was at her best recording five gains in the win.