The Northern Mystics transtasman league play-off hopes are looking increasingly tenuous after falling to another crushing defeat across the Tasman.
The Mystics suffered a 69-46 loss to the Vixens in Melbourne this afternoon in a performance lacking in spirit, accuracy and discipline.
Aside from a 3-0 start to the match, the Mystics rarely looked confident in their approach, with a committed through-court defensive effort from the homeside preventing the Auckland side from playing the open style of game they favour.
With a bye round scheduled next weekend, the Mystics, who are battling it out with fellow competition stragglers the Mainland Tactix and Central Pulse for the third spot in the New Zealand conference finals, will need to hope other results go their way over the break.
There will also need to be plenty of soul-searching in the Mystics camp during the week off, with the Auckland side let down in the effort areas against the Vixens. The rebounds, pick-ups and gains stats all heavily favoured the Vixens, who were relentless in their approach as they chase a play-offs spot in the tightly-poised Australian conference.
But the most alarming category for the Mystics multi-layered coaching staff will be the turnover count, which soared to 35.
Most of those turnovers seemed to be caused by a bottle-neck around the transverse line, as the Mystics struggled to move the ball into their shooting circle. The introduction of 2.04m shooter Megan Craig mid-way through the second quarter in place of Cathrine Tuivaiti helped open up the attack end for a brief period, but the Vixens defence soon made the adjustment.
The week off will at least give the Auckland side the opportunity to get on top of their injury battles. Kayla Cullen, who has been out of action for over a month with a foot injury, made a brief return today, playing 20 minutes at wing defence. It is hoped the bye round will give the Silver Ferns star the chance to build her workload back up.
Young defender Holly Fowler, who has been a regular starter for the Mystics over the first half of the season is also expected back after the break.
In today's other ANZ Championship match-up, the Pulse picked up an unwanted first, becoming the first side to lose to the Adelaide Thunderbirds this season.
The two sides were evenly matched through the opening two quarters, but an 18-9 third quarter blow-out saw the Thunderbirds take a commanding 48-36 lead heading into the final spell.
The Pulse opened the fourth quarter with a 7-2 run to give the home crowd a glimmer of hope, but two crucial missed shots from replacement shooter Te Amo Amaru-Tibble, allowed the visitors to restore a comfortable margin.
The early push from the Pulse proved to be all the fight they had in them as the Thunderbirds cantered to a 60-46 win.