Old foes will fight out premier final
Perennial rivals St Mary's and Rata will meet in the final of the Invercargill Netball Centre premier grade after both teams won their semifinal clashes on Saturday.
Rata inflicted revenge on defending champions Collegiate with a 30-18 victory in the first semifinal. It was a meaningful win for the Rata team, after Collegiate knocked them out at the same stage of the season last year.
The game hung in the balance late in the third quarter, with Rata clinging to a two-goal lead. Rata sealed the contest in the final 15 minutes of play, outscoring Collegiate 10-1, to break away from their opponents. Rata coach Fiona Ward made a key change at the beginning of the third quarter, switching Southland representative Kendall McMinn from wing attack to wing defence, and it proved to be a crucial move.
McMinn did a fine job of pressurising Collegiate's supply of ball into the shooting end, and generating turnovers. Centre Hayley Crofts also had a busy game on both attack and defence.
Rata defenders Rachel Fahey and Tegan Hunt got the better of Collegiate shooters Amanda Wilson and Olivia Ribbon in the second half and forced them into several difficult shot attempts.
Southland Girls' High produced a spirited second-half comeback against St Mary's in the other semifinal, but it was a case of too little, too late, as they lost 32-25.
St Mary's dominated the first half, taking a 12-goal lead into the halftime break. Down by 10 goals entering the final quarter, Southland Girls' lifted their game, but were unable to make up the large deficit.
Memory McLeod and Mishani Areaiiti shot well for St Mary's in the first half, but were not as effective in the second, as Southland Girls' coach Natalie Avellino mixed up her defensive end.
Midcourters Whitney Areaiiti and Jo Telfer both had solid games for St Mary's, while defenders Donna Warnock and Sara Bartley were able to unsettle Southland Girls' shooter Bayley Smith.
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