Steel proves home is where the wins are

Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit.
Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit.
It was a night the Southern Steel had waited all season for.

When it finally arrived, the Invercargill crowd was left with plenty to cheer about.

The Steel withstood a fourth quarter comeback to beat the Northern Mystics 51-47 last night in its first home game since March.

It retained the Georgie Salter Memorial Trophy in the process.

The win built on the team’s impressive record in the deep South — only once since the competition switched to the domestic ANZ Premiership has it lost at Stadium Southland.

It also pulls the Steel to within a point of the fourth-placed Northern Stars, while putting a dent in the third-placed Mystics’ grand final hopes.

After a tough season, it was clear the Steel felt comfortable in this one and pulled out to a 19-8 lead early in the second quarter.

It did a fantastic job keeping the ball away from Mystics’ shooter Grace Nweke and, more importantly, forcing turnover ball.

At the other end, midcourt duo Gina Crampton and Shannon Saunders showed their class and composure, while goal attack Kalifa McCollin was deadly in shooting 32 from 36.

Coach Reinga Bloxham said it had been great to be back at home.

The combination of familiar surroundings, not having to travel and having its home fans helped propel the team.

"It was awesome to be back home in front of the crowd, using the energy they were providing to help get us over the line," she said.

"I think we had an amazing first quarter which set us up for the rest of the game.

"We just managed to hold on in there in the last quarter, but it was awesome."

The Steel had a dominant start.

Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit picked off an off-balance pass from Grace Nweke, which the Steel used to take an early lead.

From there it just grew.

The attack was patient and the shooters accurate — they missed just once in the first quarter and rebounded that to score.

Selby-Rickit forced several turnovers from a Mystics attack that managed just eight shots.

Kate Heffernan was equally disruptive and helped win the ball to allow the Steel take a 17-8 lead to quarter-time.

That lead became double-digits shortly after, before the Mystics stopped the bleeding.

They began to find Nweke in the circle, while the defence began to get deflections.

But the Steel held a comfortable buffer still, leading 29-22 at halftime.

The Mystics reduced that deficit to five not long after halftime.

It was short-lived though, the Steel again gaining pick-ups, while Crampton and Saunders showed their experience to find the shooters.

That enabled it to take a 43-34 lead into the final break.

However, again the Mystics quickly closed that to 44-39 and then, with four minutes left, drew to within three.

But Crampton and Saunders took control, showing composure and helping the Steel hold off the northerners.

The Steel plays again in Invercargill at 5pm tonight against the Central Pulse.


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