The Southern Steel have overcome their toughest challenge yet, with a last-gasp goal enough to pip the Northern Mystics 68-67.
Finishing each quarter strongly proved the difference for the Steel. With the Mystics levelling the scores with six seconds on the clock, overtime loomed before quick transitional play gave the Steel the clincher, with Jhaniele Fowler-Reid putting in a shot on the final buzzer.
The Steel had earlier pushed out to an early six-goal lead, the speed of accuracy on attack by Gina Crampton and Shannon Francois providing a seamless supply of ball to key target Fowler-Reid under the hoop.
The Mystics struggled to contain the intensity and accuracy of the always busy and creative Steel. Just when the floodgates looked set to open, the Mystics produced a late quarter surge which helped steer them back on course.
A couple of late turnovers kept the score in check during a high-scoring first quarter with Fowler-Reid posting a personal haul of 17 as the Steel went to the first break with a 20-16 lead.
Rejigging their defensive line helped enforce a productive second stanza from the visitors. With both teams impressing with their flair and vision on attack, it was the Mystics who continued to grow in confidence.
Attacking pair Maria Tutaia and Elisapeta Toeava were the driving force behind the Mystics resilience while shooter Bailey Mes was a key contributor with her aerial skills, athletic ability and accuracy under the hoop.
Bringing the game alive, the visitors briefly nosed their way in front, the Steel having the last say during which Fowler-Reid posted her 600th goal of the season to help the home team steady the ship and take a narrow 37-35 lead into the main break.
Both teams produced a pulsating 15 minutes of play during the all-important third quarter.
The Mystics came out all guns blazing, quickly making up the deficit as they burst into the lead through a mix of patience and exhilarating attacking play. Mes dominated her defenders to play a prominent role as the Mystics strode out to a four-goal lead.
The intensity and pressure produced some uncustomary errors from the normally-slick Steel, who were clearly rattled. However, as is the Steel way, the home team overcame their wobbly patch with a strong finish to claw their way back to a 50-49 lead at the last break and the promise of a thrilling finish.
They delivered on that promise at the end to move to 12 from 12 and lock up a home final, while the Mystics take a bonus point to remain one point outside the playoff race.