Mystics 57 Tactix 56
The Harrison Hoist sideshow of the past week threatened to upend the Northern Mystics last night, as they battled to a narrow win over the lowly-ranked Canterbury Tactix.
In a week where the Mystics controversial lifting tactics dominated the sporting debate, a capacity crowd turned out to Trusts Stadium eager to see Anna Harrison's aerial heroics live.
But a well-schooled Tactix had also come prepared for the move, and some clever attacking team-work ensured the Mystics defence had few opportunities to attempt the lift.
Ellen Halpenny and Jo Harten provided the rest of their transtasman rivals with a blueprint in how to combat the defensive move, setting up screens for one another and looked for the offload when Harrison was poised to pounce.
With the Tactix finding effective ways to stamp out the move, the Mystics were able to attempt the Harrison Hoist only twice, with the timing off on both lifts.
Mystics captain Temepara George insisted all the talk of her side's defensive innovations over the past week were not a distraction for her side, instead giving the Tactix credit for their clever attacking play.
"I think the Tactix did well in stopping [the hoist] from happening, they were playing it around a bit. So it's not news any more, it's old news so I think we need to bring something new out," she said.
Of bigger concern for George was her side's inability to build on a 10-goal lead they had amassed mid-way through the second period.
The Tactix managed to claw their deficit back to seven by halftime, but the Mystics still looked well in control. However, they returned a different side after the break, with some overly ambitious attacking play proving their un-doing.
"I think we were guilty down our attack end of forcing it too much, we had a great game last week and showed a lot of composure, but somehow we couldn't find that this week. I think we thought went in to bye round too early," said George.
While the visitors ensured there were very few opportunities for the Mystics to employ the Harrison Hoist, the match did not lack for showmanship.
The interplay around the Mystics shooting circle was at times spectacular, with Cathrine Latu and Maria Tutaia pulling plenty of high-risk manoeuvres.
For the most part, the speed and creativity in the shooting circle was breathtaking, but there were patches - particularly in the second half - when the Mystics were guilty of trying to be too tricky, and their execution suffered.
The Mystics were also sloppy through the opening stages, the attack end struggled to get in sync. Down the other end of the court the Tactix were beating them with simple ball speed, to take a surprise early lead. But after their early stutters, the Mystics found their rhythm closing in on the end of the first quarter, for a 14-10 lead.
The Mystics let loose in the second period, converting a wealth of turnover ball to open up a handy halftime lead.
But their hard work was soon undone in the third spell, as the Tactix capitalised on a mounting error rate. A lay-up from Harten right on three quarter time brought the Tactix within two goals of the home side.
In a thrilling fourth quarter, the Tactix got within one of the home side on several occasions, but each time the Mystics managed to surge ahead again, in large part thanks to some clutch shooting from Tutaia down the stretch.
Leading by four goals with a minute and a half left on the clock, the Mystics looked to have the game in the bag, but a late rally from the Tactix ensured the scoreline was much tighter than the Auckland side had hoped.