The last round of premier grade netball in two weeks will signal the end for the bottom two teams in each division after some positive results for the frontrunners last weekend.
Northern Tavern St Mary's A are pleased to have cemented top position, going into semi-finals after beating Southland Girls' High School's Senior A team 40-39 on Saturday.
Caught by the calendar and approaching school tournament week, the Invercargill Netball Centre has taken a new approach to semifinals this year, scheduling them for three nights in late August.
If the Northern Tavern St Mary's All Stars hope to feature in these evening playoff games, they will have to win their last game of the round, after losing to Rata Red 58-48 on Saturday. A flat start by the All Stars allowed Rata to take the lead and keep it through to the final whistle.
Bluff A continued their winning streak with a solid 10-goal win over Southland Girls' High School's Senior B.
Continual tips and pickups from rangy defender Greer Campbell were converted by accurate shooter Amanda Wilson to take the game 53-43.
In the Premier B division, Verdon Senior A earned a 57-41 win over Collegiate Gold.
A poor start cost Otatara Stars, who were out-run 52-36 by Southland Girls' High School's Year 10 A team, and St Mary's B were stifled by Rata Stubbies 40-31.
The premier teams take a two-week break while the remaining open, secondary and year 7/8 grades play out their last round-robin games before the weeknight semifinals.
For the top three INC premier teams, the Classic Hits-sponsored Southland-wide league continues on Thursday in the last round of games, where three teams are still in the hunt for the remaining two semifinal spots.
The Northern Tavern St Mary's Men and Lone Star United are unassailable at the top of the table.
This 8pm game will earn the winner the "easier" first-versus-fourth semifinal and is sure to be a goal-for-goal encounter.
However, it is below these two top teams that the semifinal race gets interesting as three teams - Southland Girls' High School Senior A, St Mary's and Ex High - vie for the minor semifinal spots.
Southland Girls' can easily grab third position with another win over Rata or with a loss of no more than five points. A wider margin will have the youngsters still in the playoff mix, although other results will dictate their finals position.
The real battle is for fourth place, between Ex High of Gore and St Marys A as they fight for the last spot. This is another game that could go down to the dying minutes and rely heavily on the accuracy and nerve of both teams.
- The Southland Times