Mystics 67 Steel 61
Mystics star Cathrine Latu produced a 100 per cent shooting effort to eclipse the competition's most prolific shooter, Steel import Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, to give her side just their second win of the season in a high-scoring slug-fest in Invercargill.
Fresh off a 100 per cent effort in Brisbane last weekend, Latu backed up with another perfect game, converting all 47 of her shots at goal in her side's 67-61 win over the southerners. Fowler-Reid, who averages over 40 goals a game, also landed 47 goals, but had two more attempts than Latu.
With both shooting circles in dominant form, the match was decided on which team could make the most of their turnover ball.
Trailing by one heading into the final spell after letting a four-goal halftime lead slip, the Mystics produced a big final quarter effort to secure the much-needed win. After showing strong improvement over the past three rounds, Latu said the challenge for her side if they are to continue to keep their season alive is to put together a more consistent performance.
"I think in the past couple of games we've shown we can compete and we do have heart, we just have lulls in the middle there," said Latu.
The Steel were forced to make a late change to their starting line-up, handing midcourter Gina Crampton her first start of the season after veteran centre Phillipa Finch injured her calf in the warm-up.
There were a couple of surprises in the Mystics line-up as well, although these ones were planned as Debbie Fuller looked to change up her defence end to try and nullify the impact of the Steel's 1.98m shooting weapon in Fowler-Reid. With the Steel at their most dangerous when they are able to release the ball quickly on attack, the Mystics fielded a tall defensive line, pushing Anna Harrison out to goal defence, and moving Australian import Julie Corletto across to wing defence, to put pressure on the passes into the circle.
Jess Tuki was handed the tough task of matching up on Fowler-Reid, but showed impressive elevation to get up and contest the high balls into the circle, with young defender Temalisi Fakahokotau introduced in the second half to finish the job.
Both sides took some time to feel one another out, with the score level at 19-all at the first break after a fast-paced and high-scoring start to the match.
The Mystics made their move early in the second period, opening up a six-goal lead as their defensive line began to disrupt the Steel's feeding into the circle.
But there was drama on the stroke of halftime when a Maria Tutaia long shot was disallowed as the umpires had ruled it had not passed through the net before time was up on the clock, putting the Mystics' lead back to four at the long break.
The Mystics could not push on from there, as the Steel capitalised on some good defensive work from veteran Rachel Rasmussen.
With four minutes remaining in the period the Steel levelled the score. Again a Tutaia long bomb on the stroke of three-quarter time was not counted - although this time it was more obvious that she hadn't got the shot away in time - giving the home side a one-goal lead heading into the final period.