The Central Pulse continued their march towards the ANZ Premiership Finals Series, with a composed display across the court to defeat the Mainland Tactix 62-49 in Wellington.
While the Tactix had bursts of intensity, the Pulse were unrelenting - in particular their co-captains, Tiana Metuarau and Kelly Jury, leading by example at opposite ends of the court.
The Pulse look certain to make the Finals Series, putting themselves in a strong position to challenge the table topping Mystics for the title of minor premiers.
The tussle between goal attack Metuarau and Tactix goal defence Karin Burger lived up to the hype. But Metuarau had the upper hand from the start – her exceptional feeding, rebounding and shooting commanding the Pulse attack.
A run of three with five minutes to go put the Pulse in a strong position, after the Tactix made a series of costly mistakes off their centre passes.
But the Pulse were guilty of simple errors too, allowing the Tactix to get back within spitting distance, 14-12, at the end of the first spell.
The see-sawing continued in the second quarter, with the Pulse racing out to a five-goal advantage, only for the Tactix to reel it back to one. In the midcourt, captain Kimiora Poi led by example – despite some aggressive opposition from her Pulse opposite, Erikana Pedersen.
But then the Pulse defence ratcheted up to the next level right through court, smothering the Tactix, who were forced to look backwards as much as they did forwards. That allowed the Pulse to cut off the flow to Tactix shooters, Ellie Bird and Te Paea Selby-Rickit, with goal keep Kristiana Manu'a at her spoiling best (earning her MVP honours).
A stunning run of eight suddenly put the Pulse out to a nine-goal lead, denying the Tactix a goal for five minutes. So the Tactix brought on fresh legs, Kate Lloyd at goal keep and Vika Koloto at wing attack.
But at halftime the difference was into double digits – 32-22 in the home side's favour.
The Tactix came back firing at the start of the third quarter, but the Pulse were unrelenting – especially goal defence Kelly Jury who made life difficult for Bird in particular, and read the game adeptly making three intercepts and six deflections by three quarter time.
Metuarau continued to dominate on attack, throwing herself into everything, unafraid to put up shots, and standing strong under the hoop for any rebounds.
Lily Fletcher entered the game for the Tactix at wing defence just before the break, but by then the difference had crept out to 12, the Pulse up 48-36.
Again the Tactix returned to the court with passion, their defence forcing the Pulse to hold the ball too long looking for options. A run of five for the Tacitx near the end of the game brought the gap momentarily back within single digits.
But the Pulse showed no signs of tiring, and pushed it out again; coach Yvette McCausland-Durie bringing her bench on court to soak up the roar of the crowd for the final minutes.
Shooting Stats - Pulse:
Aliyah Dunn 43/48 (90%)
Tiana Metuarau 17/20 (85%)
Renee Matoe 1/1 (100%)
Amelia Walmsley 1/1 (100%)
Shooting Stats - Tactix:
Ellie Bird 39/45 (87%)
Te Paea Selby-Rickit 10/12 (83%)
MVP: Kristiana Manu'a (Pulse)