Never underestimate the power of home-court advantage in sport because it offers the luxury of comfort and security only a fortress can.
That is a key factor in why All In Tremains Elusive wore down Outkast Optimise Physio 53-39 in the top-of-the-table clash in round four of the shield competition of the Holden Karamu Super 8 netball competition in Hawke's Bay on Friday night.
"It was good to play there because we had trained there the night before so our shooters were quite relaxed and calm," said All In team manager Honey Amner, believing both teams, as well as the spectators, had enjoyed the tussle at the Woodford House gym in Havelock North.
The games, usually staged at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Napier, were played at the integrated all-girls' school gym and the AW Parsons Stadium courts instead because a home and garden show had booked the Taradale venue.
"It does make a difference," said Amner whose daughter Candis Timms plays and coaches All In who dominated in their first game this winter, after winning only two quarters in previous clashes.
But it would be too simplistic to suggest All In prevailed over Outkast because of the familiar traction. No doubt, the only undefeated side in the premier women's competition must have other attributes that have made them raise the bar this season compared with others.
Amner agreed, revealing things were finally falling into place for the team.
"I feel, watching the game, that we're quite strong in all the thirds on the of court this year compared to past years when we used to have a very strong mid-court and, maybe, a very strong shooting circle or whatever, you know, but we hadn't been string right through.
"I think we're quite even through the court now."
Amner said it was probably the best game they had played so far this winter when taking into consideration the time and effort put into their scrimmages.
Timms was comfortable about rolling out her three bench players in the final quarter.
"She was right in that she felt the girls who came off the bench actually carried on the flow and did really well [to maintain the momentum established in the first three quarters]," Amner said.
She singled out wing attack Kia Diamond and goal attack Kathleen Tuaputa-Nahora as their standouts although the entire side functioned cohesively for a well-deserved outcome.
"Kia got our three points as the player of the match which she deserved," she said.
"Kathleen also was very strong at goal attack."
With relegation-bound Hastings Girls' High School Senior A their next opponents in a 6pm clash back at the PG Arena, Amner said Timms intended to roll out a full-strength starting seven before injecting the bench girls again.
"We're only playing with 10 [players] this year so we've only got three on the bench anyway so they were pleasantly surprised they were on for the last quarter so they carried on that momentum."
All In surged to a 16-9 lead in the first quarter, making crucial intercepts to fluster Outkast although the latter recovered in the next spell for a 13-17 returns to trail 22-33 at halftime.
Player/coach Jeda Bartlett came in with Barbie Thompson for Outkast when play resumed, putting a check on All In goal shoot Pania Rowe whose impressive 92 per cent was whittled back to 72 but that didn't stop the forager to finish with a 83 per cent. Tuaputa-Nahora backed up with 79 per cent success.
However, both sides lifted their intensity in the third quarter with All In edging past 7-5 (40-27) before claiming the final spell 13-12 with three bench players.
All In goal keep Zoe Baker had a blinder, starving the Outkast attacking circle of possession although Sa'ena Rakei claimed a match-high 94 per cent with Raiha Falcon-Maxwell managed 56 per cent.
In other games, Hastings High School Old Girls' Proactive Huia also lost their unblemished record when Havelock North House of Travel Kauri had a nail-biting 38-37 victory earlier at Woodford House.
Kauri lent credence to consistency, fielding the same seven from the previous three rounds while Huai managed only three due to injuries.
The tragedy on the court was the ball hovering around the attacking circles at both ends without any side really taking ownership but when the jitters subsided Kauri's goal shoot Tania Laking and Michelle Bazalo boosted their rate to 93 per cent.
Huia goal shoot Judy Brown led her side by example, amassing 11 goals, including seven on the trot, only to find time had deserted them at the final buzzer for agonising defeat.
Ironically, this time, it wasn't about how teams finish but how they start.
The schoolgirls hit state highway but only one side returned with points from Waipukurau.
For Napier Girls' High School it was a case of how they finished after starting slow against Central Sports Vet Services before eclipsing the hosts 55-50 to sit four points clear above HGHS, on zero points, of the standings after four rounds.
NGHS lost the first two spells — 12-17, 12-10 — to trail 24-27 at halftime before cranking it up in the third, 19-6, to set the tone at 43-33 before Central hit back, 17-13, but it was too little, too late.
Janayah Lewis swapped the GA bib for the GS one to shoot 87 per cent for NGHS despite Central GS/GA Kirby Beach offering a 89 per cent and GA Isabelle Crawshaw backing up with 79.
Earlier, Otane had crushed HGHS 59-33 with GA Melissa Te Huki doing the damage at 89 per cent and Sarona Fruean lifting the intensity to 89 per cent after she took the GS bib from Grace Major (67 per cent) in the second half.
Standings: All In 16pts, Outkast 12, Huia 11, Otane 9, Kauri 8, Central 6, NGHS 4, HGHS 0.
For rd 5 games at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, on Friday:
■ 6pm: Huia v Outkast, court 1.
■ 7.30pm: Kauri v NGHS, court 1.
■ 6pm: All In v HGHS, court 2.
■ 7.30pm: Otane v Central Sports, court 2.