The Northern Mystics' resurgence has been cut short by the clinical Central Pulse.
Having started the ANZ Premiership season with two losses, the Mystics looked to have found their groove with impressive victories over the Northern Stars and Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic, but a poor shooting display consigned them to defeat in Wellington.
The Silver Ferns attacking pairing of Bailey Mes and Maria Tutaia could only hit at a 69 per cent rate for the Mystics, and were outshone by the similarly high-calibre Pulse defensive duo of Phoenix Karaka and Katrina Grant.
Karaka was a standout, displaying stellar anticipation and quick hands, combining with the similarly impressive Grant as the pair snatched six interceptions and caused 10 deflections.
At the other end, the Pulse's contrasting styles of veteran Cathrine Tuivaiti and elite prospect Tiana Metuarau continued their burgeoning on-court understanding.
Tuivaiti shot 28/29 and utilised space expertly with extended movement outside the circle, providing different options for the Pulse midcourters and Metuarau. At 16 years old, Metuarau performed well in her first start at this level, shooting 19/23.
The two sides had met earlier in the year in a tense 56-55 battle, won by the Pulse, but the franchise from the capital had more breathing room tonight.
A 10-3 run in the middle of the first quarter shot the Pulse out to an early buffer, as Tutaia missed five first quarter shots. At one stage throughout the first and second periods, the Pulse connected on 17 straight shots, while in same timeframe the Mystics missed eight.
The Mystics were racking up penalties as they struggled to deal with the Pulse ball speed in the final third, but they began to cause problems of their own in the midcourt. The visitors pegged the lead back to a five point margin as the Pulse's turnover count mounted, but they couldn't capitalise.
Even when the Pulse went four minutes without scoring, the Mystics could never bridge the gap. Despite putting up 10 more shots than the Pulse, Mes (27/36) and Tutaia (16/26) were not accurate enough to exploit an otherwise decent display.
The Mystics drop to 2-3 on the season, while the Pulse now hold a 4-1 record, and temporarily go top of the table, poised alongside the Magic as the most worthy contenders for the unbeaten Southern Steel.