Mystics too strong for Steel in fight to the playoffs

Steel shooter Grace Namana passes the ball around Mystics defender Phoenix Karaka. PHOTO: MICHAEL...
Steel shooter Grace Namana passes the ball around Mystics defender Phoenix Karaka. PHOTO: MICHAEL BRADLEY PHOTOGRAPHY
The Northern Mystics have edged their way back in the ANZ Premiership playoffs.

They beat the Southern Steel 68-47 in Auckland this afternoon and jumped to third, knocking the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic out.

With two rounds left in the regular season, it sets up an interesting fight to the playoffs.

The Steel had a much better final quarter, scoring five goals in a row, but the Mystics inflicted early damage.

Grace Nweke was visibly annoyed by the attention Taneisha Fifita paid her in the opening quarter, looking at the umpire several times for the calls.

Abby Lawson boxed out, secured the rebound and the Steel’s transition down court was strong.

It sparked a three-goal run, with Grace Namana and Georgia Heffernan finding better space under the post.

But the Mystics came home strong in the final few minutes to lead 16-12 at the first break.

The Mystics rung in the changes in the second quarter, but they were clinical in their approach to the post.

The Steel had some nice passages.

Serina Daunakamakama’s feed found Namana driving hard on the base and Kate Heffernan threading the needle to her sister.

Kate Heffernan again shouldered a heavy workload and her elevation in the air on the three-foot mark slowed down the Mystics at the centre pass.

But through court, the Mystics were almost unstoppable, even when Nweke took a break, and they jumped out to a 10-point lead at halftime.

The Steel just needed more patience on attack, more pressure out the front and to treasure the ball when it went their way.

The volume of ball into their shooters needed to lift as well.

The Steel went on another small run through the third quarter, but the Mystics powered ahead and led 50-34 at the break.

They were not flashy in their approach, but the ability to transition quickly, pick up ball and fire in accurate long feeds made the difference.

The Mystics continued to tinker with their line-up, the scoreline giving coach Tia Winikerei the luxury of giving all her players a run.

The Mainland Tactix beat the Northern Stars 65-54 on Saturday.

ANZ Premiership

The scores

Northern Mystics 68

Grace Nweke 40/44, Dani Binks 5/8, Filda Vui 17/17, Hannah Glen 6/7

Southern Steel 47

Grace Namana 25/27, Georgia Heffernan 21/27, Summer Temu 1/1

Quarter scores: Northern Mystics 16-12, 33-23, 50-34