The Northern Mystics have coughed up another opportunity to notch their first win of the ANZ Championship season.
They had to settle for a 52-52 draw in Wellington tonight, after the Central Pulse fought their way back from a nine-goal deficit mid-way through the second quarter as the Mystics' inconsistency was once again exposed.
The Pulse probably should have walked away with the two points, but an untidy penalty from Katrina Grant in the dying seconds as the Mystics desperately tried to get the ball into the circle, gave the visitors a penalty shot after the final whistle had sounded, which Maria Tutaia duly slotted.
But there were no celebrations from the Mystics, with shooter Cathrine Tuivaiti summing up the feeling in the camp with her blunt assessment of their performance.
"I think we had enough opportunities, enough points on the board, and we blew it, and that's not good enough," she said.
The Mystics have been chopping and changing their starting line-up over the opening two rounds as they sought a winning formula.
Last night saw Tuivaiti, who sat out all but five minutes of her side's round two loss to the Fever, return to the run-on side at goal shoot following last week's failed experiment with 2.04m basketball convert Megan Craig. English import Serena Guthrie meanwhile earned her first start of the year having been on limited duties as she managed a niggly Achilles injury.
The well-established combination of Tuivaiti and Maria Tutaia dominated for much of the opening 20 minutes of the match, with the pair pulling off some spectacular passages of play. The movement and clever passing of Tuivaiti, combined with the brilliant long-range shooting of Tutaia was awe-inspiring at times.
A five-goal streak towards end of opening spell helped Mystics to a 14-10 lead at the first break, and when the visitors opened the second spell with an 7-2 run to push their lead out to nine goals, it looked like the Mystics were well in control of their match.
But their confident play soon turned to over-confidence.
Lulled into a false sense of security by the scoreline, the Mystics kept pushing the envelope with their attacking game, opting for the flashy, low-percentage plays over a more considered approach.
The Mystics' inability to assert control over the proceedings left the door slightly ajar for the Pulse, which the homeside kicked open, responding with an extraordinary 10-1 run of their own to draw level at 22-all with five minutes remaining in the half.
Pulse defenders Katrina Grant and Phoenix Karaka, who were bystanders through a lot of the early exchanges, began to work their way into the match, picking up some beautiful ball, while midcourter Elias Scheres worked doggedly on defence to help frustrate the Mystics attack.
The Mystics' unravelling was reminiscent of their opening round loss to the Steel, in which they slumped to a one-goal loss after leading by seven goals late in the game.
But this time, they had another 30 minutes of netball to put things right.
Holding a narrow 27-26 lead at the long break, a more disciplined and composed Mystics line-up returned in the third quarter. The attack end showed greater patience, opting to work the ball around more often, but they were still guilty of letting basic errors slip in.
Leading 40-37 heading into the final spell, the Mystics again had the better of the Pulse through the opening stages of the quarter, but when the pressure piled on in the latter stages of the match, it was the home side that stood up to the challenge better.