Steel end the Northern Mystics' playoff hopes
An outstanding performance from rising young defender Phoenix Karaka helped the Southern Steel to their fourth win of the season tonight.
Karaka, a Silver Fern debutante on the end of year tour, made a real nuisance of herself against the international shooting pairing of Maria Tutaia and Cathrine Latu in the 73-61 win over the Mystics in Auckland.
In tandem with Rachel Rasmussen, and later Storm Purvis, Karaka led the game in deflections as the Steel ended any hopes the Mystics had of making this year's semifinals.
In a topsy-turvy game, the Steel let a handy lead slip in the first quarter before the two teams were locked together at 16-all at the first break.
The Steel took some control of the game in the second quarter and were rewarded with a 34-31 lead at halftime, but they handed that back early in the third when the Mystics went on a six goal run to take the lead.
Somehow the Steel were able to work their way back into the game and then build on their advantage, taking a seven goal lead into the final stanza.
Steel captain Jodi Brown was a pivotal player for the ninth-placed Steel, producing her best shooting display of the season to support the undoubted talents of Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.
The introduction of defender Temalisi Fakahokotau, who was a big reason for the Mystics' win over the Steel in Invercargill earlier this season, wasn't enough to knock the visitors off their stride as they extended their lead out to 11 goals midway through the final quarter.
With the score blowing out in the final five minutes, the Steel were able to give Te Paea Selby-Rickit and Gina Crampton some court time in the shooting circle and midcourt, respectively.
Along with the much greater output from Brown and Karaka's Inspector Gadget impressions in the defensive circle, Wendy Frew came up with some timely turnovers at wing defence to help the Steel to a much deserved victory, just their second over a New Zealand team this season.