Southern Steel snatch victory from the Vixens
The Southern Steel have dealt the Melbourne Vixens a blow on the eve of the trans-Tasman league playoffs with a 65-64 win in Invercargill this afternoon.
The Vixens were gunning for their third minor premiership in seven years, but could now be overtaken by the NSW Swifts if they can beat the Mystics tonight.
For Steel, the win was their seventh of the season, improving on their six victories in 2013, and it could be enough to leapfrog them into fifth place overall if the Pulse were beaten by a big enough margin by the Fever in Perth tomorrow.
The Vixens showed little travel fatigue at the beginning of the first quarter, quickly asserting their dominance of the game with some crushing full court defence.
The Steel looked a little nervous taking on their table-topping opposition, second guessing some of their passing.
The home team's own defence was also finding cracks in the Vixens attack, with Storm Purvis quick to latch onto any errant possession.
By the end of the quarter, the Steel had managed to weather the initial attack and settled into their own rhythm to trail by two goals at the break.
Jhaniele Fowler-Reid started in the goal shoot bib for Steel after recovering from a sprained knee, but defender Rachel Rasmussen was ruled out before the game after dislocating her shoulder in practise the previous day.
Her place in the squad was taken by Otago shooter Olivia Bates to provide additional cover for Fowler-Reid.
The second quarter saw the Steel strike back, a Wendy Frew turnover providing the inspiration as the Steel jumped out to a 20-15 lead which forced a timeout out of Vixens coach Simone McKinnis.
The Vixens' mounted a comeback through the second half of the quarter, with wing attack Madison Robinson leading the way.
Tegan Caldwell's final shot of the half bounced back off the ring under pressure from the game clock and the Steel took a one goal lead into the second half.
Catherine Cox replaced Karyn Bailey at goal shoot to start the second half, but it was intercepts from Frew and Phoenix Karaka which saw the Steel leap out to a 42-35 lead at the midpoint of the third quarter.
Two goals from Caldwell in the final minute of the quarter cut the deficit to five goals going into the final 15 minutes.
A Fowler-Reid miss early in the quarter helped the Vixens get to within two goals and ensure a tense finish for the nearly 2900-strong crowd.
Just when the Vixens looked destined to even the scores, Karaka produced a brilliant deflection to give the Steel some breathing room.
Heading into the final minute, the Vixens did draw level, but it was Fowler-Reid who scored the final goal of the game to secure the win.
Quarter scores (Steel first): 13-14, 29-28, 50-45,
Steel: Jhaniele Fowler-Reid 44/48, Jodi Brown 21/29
Vixens: Karyn Bailey 12/12, Tegan Caldwell 34/36, Catherine Cox 18/20
- The Southland Times