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The Southern Steel snapped its ANZ Premiership losing streak in Auckland yesterday, holding
off the Northern Stars to emerge 49-47 in its first win of the season.
That followed a 46-42 loss to the Northern Mystics on Saturday.
It was a much-improved performance from the Steel.
After a strong fourth quarter on Saturday, it came with a similarly strong start yesterday.
It surged ahead to an 8-2 lead, the connections looking stronger than previous games and the shooters more accurate.
That accuracy continued.
Kalifa McCollin lifted her 60% on Saturday to 93%, while Jennifer O’Connell shot at 89% to shade her Silver Fern counterpart Maia Wilson.
Despite that the Stars were able to claw their way back.
The Steel held a narrow lead most of the way, before four goals in a row from Wilson left the score at 36-36 at the final break.
From there the sides traded goals and while the Stars leant largely on Wilson, the Steel utilised its dual threats in O’Connell and McCollin.
They managed a run of three midway through the quarter, opening a gap the Steel was able to hold.
A day earlier, it was a shaky performance through the middle two quarters against the Mystics.
Defenders Sulu Fitzpatrick and Phoenix Karaka used their length and aggression.
They gathered seven intercepts between them, making circle penetration difficult for the Steel feeders.
At the other end, young goal shooter Grace Nweke was equally dominant for the Mystics.
She shot at 35/40, rebounding and finishing all five misses.
In contrast, the Steel’s shooting accuracy of 76% — notably McCollin’s 12/20 — was not enough.
Steel coach Reinga Bloxham was glad to pick up the win.
"I think it’s probably a relief more than anything else," she said.
"It’s good to know we’ve got that capability within us and hopefully puts us in good stead going forward."
She admitted having a few losses in a row could start to play on the mind, particularly for a team used to winning.
However, the win was a big step forward.
She said the team was pleased with Saturday’s fourth quarter, although there was a little disappointment it could not play like that the whole game.
It used that to look at what it needed and what it was good at going into yesterday’s game.
Of concern for the Steel will be a knee injury to shooter Georgia Heffernan.
The 20-year-old was carried from the court late in the third quarter after going down following a non-contact situation.
Bloxham said she was "not great" after the game, but would know more in the coming days.
Southern Steel 49 Jennifer O’Connell 32/36, Kalifa McCollin 14/15, Georgia Heffernan 3/3
Northern Stars 47 Maia Wilson 37/42, Jamie Hume 10/15
Quarter scores: 15-10, 11-13, 10-13, 13-11.
Northern Mystics 46 Grace Nweke 35/40, Saviour Tui 11/14, Asher Grapes 0/2
Southern Steel 42 Jennifer O’Connell 28/32, Kalifa McCollin 12/20, 2/3
Quarter scores: 13-12, 11-8, 13-9, 9-13