The Southern Steel confirmed their strong favouritism for the ANZ premiership title as they completed a terrific 15-from-15 winning round robin record in Invercargill tonight.
In a sense their 64-51 win over the Central Pulse was more about exploring options for a likely grand final meeting on June 28.
The Steel were already assured of hosting the grand final; the Pulse will be at home for the elimination playoff next Sunday, and are the probable other finalists.
They'll be playing either the Northern Mystics or the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in that eliminator. The Magic must clobber the Northern Stars by 16 goals in Tauranga on Wednesday night to pip the Mystics.
For the Steel, it was getting back to business as usual tonight. They've put a traumatic week behind them, after their van crash in Christchurch, which left four players in hospital, and seemed to be working pretty smoothly.
''It was nice to get that final win and finish the round robin unbeaten," Steel captain Shannon Francois said, while acknowledging it was a scrappy contest against tough opponents.
So, with half an eye on a possible final, for the Pulse the game offered chances to figure out how they're going to unpick the Steel at the final step, and if there were any tactical tinkerings that might offer reward.
The last clash on May 24 produced an 80-44 shellacking so it's a tough ask.
Problem one: how to stop the Steel's goal machine Jhaniele Fowler-Reid. She's such a dominant presence in the shooting circle, the Pulse, and any other team in the league for that matter, have their hands full.
Speaking of hands, 27-year-old Jamaican Fowler-Reid, named player of the game, seemed to have brushed a layer of glue on hers, so sure was her handling. She finished with a terrific 51-from-53 shooting success rate.
The Pulse had good periods, sharing the third quarter 15-15, after being nine adrift at halftime, 34-25. When the passing was decisive and accurate they looked good and Pulse goal shoot Cathrine Tuivaiti nailed 28 from 29.
But the Steel's classy defenders Jane Watson and Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit were in strong form and drew less penalty whistle from the umpires than the Pulse.
Changes came in the second half as both teams looked ahead at possible scenarios ahead.
The Steel will want to get frontline players, captain Wendy Frew and Te Paea Selby-Rickit back on court. They are still recovering from injuries picked up in the Christchurch crash.
The Steel have a scoring lock in place at the sharp end of the court, and, although they won't say it publicly, must feel if they maintain their form, have one hand on the trophy.