Northern Mystics 56
NSW Swifts 53
As the end of season reviews start early at the Northern Mystics headquarters, the Auckland franchise will look to their rollicking win over transtasman league heavyweights the NSW Swifts in Auckland tonight as setting the blueprint for 2015.
The 56-53 win over the Swifts, who were gunning for the minor premiership, followed up an impressive win over the West Coast Fever last week, as the star-studded Mystics side finally clicked into gear.
Their comprehensive win over the Fever hinted at what the talented Mystics side were capable of, but knocking off the slick Swifts line-up who were chasing the number one seeding heading into the finals was an altogether different prospect. While the final scoreline was tight, the Mystics had effectively secured the match mid-way through the final quarter, after opening up a seven goal lead with a stunning 7-2 run to start the final spell.
The Mystics showed impressive flair and creativity on attack, as the midcourt finally found their connections with the shooters, while they were feisty and relentless on defence to out-muscle the Swifts.
Mystics captain Maria Tutaia said while it was disappointing these types of performances were coming so late in the season, she was delighted her side could show what they're capable of.
"It was such a heartening experience. Games like this and last week just go to show how amazing this team is. It was the finish we wanted. We've had our ups and downs this season, but to be able to produce back to back performances like that is extremely heartening for next season," she said.
The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic would also have been quite heartened with last night's result, with the Swifts loss leaving a top two spot up for grabs - and with it an extra life in the playoffs - in tomorrow night's final round clash with the Queensland Firebirds.
After a surprise one-goal loss to the Southern Steel on Saturday, the Vixens looked to have blown their chance at the minor premiership, but the Swifts loss last night all but ensures the Melbourne side will host next week's major semifinal, clinging on to the top spot by virtue of their superior goal percentage. With the Swifts goal percentage not as healthy, the winner of tomorrow night's match in Hamilton will leapfrog the NSW side into second place.
It will also mean three of the four finalists will head into the play-offs on the back of loss.
Once again given the nod at wing attack after a strong display against the Fever last week, Bailey Mes and her midcourt partner Laura Langman picked up from where they left off in the previous round, playing with speed and precision around the attacking circle, and feeding the shooters with confidence.
The Mystics defensive end also started strongly, with Australian import Julie Corletto the stand-out as the homeside raced out to a surprise 19-12 lead at the first break.
After doing an impressive job in the opening quarter of working the ball around their attacking third and waiting for the gaps to open, the Mystics were guilty of failing to do the work early on in the second, losing their first two possessions to ambitious long balls into the circle, which failed to come off. That allowed the Swifts to make quick in-roads into the Mystics lead, cutting the deficit to three after five minutes.
While they regained some of their rhythm as the quarter wore on, the Mystics could not restore their healthy lead, and went into halftime break just two in front. The Swifts levelled the score at 31-all soon after the resumption, as again the Mystics wasted their first centre pass with a poorly executed long bomb into Latu.
From there on it was neck-and-neck for the third period, with the Mystics just getting their noses in front by the end of the third quarter, taking a one-goal lead heading into the final period.