In yet another heart-stopper, the Ascot Southern Steel have stolen a one-goal victory from the Silvermoon Tactix, 53-52, in Christchurch tonight.
The Steel trailed by six going into the final quarter, but their experienced heads – and two sets of new young legs – saw them fight back for the breath-taking win.
It was the second time in a smidgeon over 24 hours that the Tactix had been defeated by the narrowest of margins, after their 48-47 Super Sunday loss to the WBOP Magic.
In a fascinating detail for statistics buffs, the Tactix edged out the Steel 15-13 in every quarter but the last – which the Steel stormed away with, 14-7.
Tactix defenders Temalisi Fakahokotau and Jane Watson were on fire from the outset, snaffling ball designated for the Tactixshooters
Ellie Bird, the tallest shooter in the league, was initially a little rattled by the Steel’s defensive bookends of Te Hunga ReoSelby-Rickit and Abby Erwood. But her shooting partner,Brooke Leaver, took it upon herself to lead the goal scoringfor the home side in the first quarter.
The Steel made a short break scoring three in a row near the end of the spell, but Fakahokotau’s eagle eyes spotted another intercept that swung the momentum back in the Tactix favour. A long bomb from Leaver in the final seconds gave the Tactixa 15-13 advantage at the break.
The Tactix were shaky on attack to start the second quarter, allowing the Steel to draw level again. But Bird found her form and took control of the shooting. (She would end the match on impressive figures of 35 from 41).
A shudder ran through the Steel bench when their goal shoot Jen O’Connell, who had slotted 15 from 17, limped off courtafter a mid-air clash with Fakahokotau. While her corked thigh was bandaged, Olivia Bates entered the Steel shooting circle.
It was enough of a change for the Tactix to capitalise on, making another quickfire burst before the break, to lead 30-26 at halftime. That was a victory in itself – the first time the Tactix have led at the halftime break this season.
The penalty count began mounting up against Fakahokotau, but the seasoned campaigner worked hard to keep out of trouble’s way and keep making a difference for the Tactix.
The Steel made some rapid changes to their line-up bringing teenagers Kate Heffernan and Taneisha Fifita – both making their ANZ Premiership debut - into their defence. The fresh legs helped the Steel close the gap to within two, but the Tactix pulled off another of their end-of-quarter spurts and pushed the difference out to six, 45-39.
With O’Connell back in the shooting circle, the Steel gained a new lease of life, scoring five in a row to start the quarter sensationally, and get back within one. O’Connell grimaced through the pain but played it cool.
With an increased defensive effort from the visitors, a crucial deflection from Shannon Francois gave the Steel the opportunity to snatch the lead with less than four minutes to go.
At 52-52 with 20 seconds on the clock, Te Paea Selby-Rickit (the game’s MVP) sunk a gutsy long shot and her Steel team-mates held their nerve to pull off another stunner.