Netball: Mystics extra time marvels

By Dana Johannsen

Mystics 71
Thunderbirds 68


Mystics defender Anna Harrison thwarted the Thunderbirds' attacks all night. Photo / Richard Robinson
Mystics defender Anna Harrison thwarted the Thunderbirds' attacks all night. Photo / Richard Robinson

The Mystics have revived their ANZ Championship season with a spectacular extra time victory over reigning premiers the Adelaide Thunderbirds tonight.

The 71-68 win completed a clean-sweep for New Zealand teams in the transtasman clashes over the weekend, after the Steel and Magic recorded upsets over the Fever and Vixens respectively. But it was their own pride, rather than any Kiwi pride, on the line for the Mystics tonight.

Winless over the opening three rounds of the competition, serious questions were beginning to be asked of the game plan of the star-studded Mystics side.

Tonight's win proved they may just be top four contenders yet, but having put themselves under huge pressure, it will take more gutsy displays like that seen against the Thunderbirds to get there.

The home side found themselves six goals down in the third spell, but clawed their way back to be within one heading into the final period.

A tense and exciting final quarter was marred by what looked to be a serious knee injury to Thunderbirds midcourter Leigh Waddington, who was stretchered off the court with two minutes remaining in regular time. It is the first time in the ANZ Championship ambulance staff have been called on to court to assist with an injured player.

Perhaps shaken by the incident, the Thunderbirds relinquished their two-goal advantage in the last two minutes, and were lucky to be given an opportunity to level after time had run up on the clock, to send the match into overtime.

After making a few early errors, the Mystics seized the initiative in extra time with a bold move from coach Debbie Fuller to bring on young defender Temalisi Fakahokotau at goal keep and moving Anna Harrison into wing defence, where her long limbs caused havoc in the midcourt.

The ploy paid off, with Fakahokotau coming up with a couple of big plays in the final few minutes to put the Mystics into the lead.

After missing the opening three rounds with a foot injury, Harrison made her belated return to the ANZ Championship, playing her first match since July 2012.

Starting at goal keep, Harrison brought a renewed energy to the Mystics defensive end, pulling off several unassisted blocks _ including two in the opening quarter _ and generally getting into the heads of the shooters as they lined up their shots.

There were still signs of rustiness to her general court play, with Thunderbirds import Carla Borrego finding easy space under the goal far too often, but in general it was an impressive start from the lanky defender.

Down by three goals at the first break after a scratchy start, the Mystics dug themselves into a hole early in the second spell with a couple of miscues on attack allowing the Thunderbirds out to a 22-16 lead.

Sensing the game slipping away, the Mystics responded by ramping up the defensive intensity and immediately forced the Thunderbirds into errors themselves, with first Andrea Gilmore then Erin Bell firing panic passes out of court.

That proved the impetus for a comeback from the home side, the Mystics drawing level with the visitors one minute before halftime.

- NZ Herald

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