The Northern Mystics have added to their ANZ Championship wins column, but did little to strengthen their reputation as serious contenders after escaping with a narrow win over the Pulse at the Trusts Arena tonight.
With the two sides holding identical records in the competition heading into the match - one win, four losses and a draw (against each other) - the 55-53 win allowed the Mystics to break free and claim outright third position in the New Zealand conference behind the Steel and Tactix.
But the Auckland side still look well off the pace of the competition heavyweights.
In a largely disappointing New Zealand conference, the Mystics and Pulse have been arguably the biggest disappointments. Both have failed to deliver on the enormous potential in their line-ups, and both have looked particularly ordinary against the Australian sides.
The Mystics and Pulse went into last night's match still licking their wounds following ugly losses across the Tasman. The Auckland side fell to a 70-42 loss to the Queensland Firebirds, while the Pulse were hammered 79-41 by the Swifts in Sydney, narrowly avoiding the biggest loss in the competition's history.
Returning to a style of play they're more comfortable against tonight, the Mystics produced a dominant first half performance before their inconsistency on attack returned to haunt them in the second half.
Hampered by a lack of options in the attacking end with key midcourter Kayla Cullen sidelined with a foot injury, the Mystics lacked any real leadership and drive on attack and the Pulse, after a couple of defensive reshuffles, were able to clamber their way back from a nine-goal halftime deficit to trail by just one through the early stages of the final spell.
For Mystics fans it was eerily similar to the way the 52-all draw played out when the two sides last met back in round three, but this time the Auckland side, having learnt some harsh lessons over the opening six rounds of the competition, were able to hold on for a much-needed, albeit unconvincing, win.
Leading 17-13 at the first break, the Mystics scored the first four goals of the second spell to stretch their lead out to eight. The homeside could ill afford to feel comfortable with that margin, however, having held a nine-goal lead at a similar point in their previous outing against the Pulse.
Harrison and defensive partner, Holly Fowler, shone through the middle stages of the period, providing some well-timed gains to fire up the side whenever they threatened to drop off.
Faced with a 34-25 deficit at the long break, the Pulse made their move in the third period, turning up the heat on the defence, particularly through the midcourt, to stifle the Mystics flow through the court.
Needing someone to stand up and lead on attack, the homeside were found wanting, with no one providing any drive or direction. The passing become laboured and predictable, opening up a wealth of defensive opportunities for the Pulse, as they gradually whittled the Mystics lead back to just four heading into the final spell.