Crucial errors too costly for Steel
It wasn't for long, and certainly not long enough, but for a time in the third quarter last night, it was almost like another era in another stadium.
The Southern Steel lost 67-61 to the Northern Mystics at the ILT Stadium in Invercargill last night, but there was a time there after halftime when the 2700-strong crowd produced the sort of throaty roar which made coming south to play netball such a daunting prospect.
The fans were rewarded with a dramatic turnaround, the Steel coming back from five goals down to lead by one heading into the final quarter.
Unfortunately, just when the Steel and their supporters were at their best, they produced some of their worst, and the Mystics were too good a team to let the invitation slide.
It was a particularly disappointing result given the Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored side have been very good down the stretch in wins over the Fever and Thunderbirds.
"We just, unfortunately, made mistakes at crucial times that we haven't been doing in the past couple of weeks," Steel coach Janine Southby said.
"I think they put an immense amount of pressure on us and we didn't absorb that and make the good decisions. We lost a bit of movement and confidence on attack to let the ball go and that just put a bit of doubt in the passers minds." The key difference from the past fortnight was the loss of Phillipa Finch to a calf injury during the warmup.
Gina Crampton made her starting debut at centre for the Steel and when she was spelled after halftime with Wendy Frew moving across the Stacey Peeters getting a rare chance off the bench, the Steel went into the final quarter with an unfamiliar midcourt line.
"We've got to go away and work on that one," Southby said.
"We run different lines at practices but it's that shock of [an injury] happening then and there. It takes a little bit to adjust, but I think Gina came on and did some nice work in there." It shouldn't pass without mentioning just how good the Mystics were at applying pressure when they needed to.
With Cathrine Latu landing all 47 of her attempts, the Mystics only needed to turnover the ball to gain a winning advantage.
Jess Tuki was good in the defensive circle in the first half before Temalisi Fakahokotau's physicality was added to the game in the second.
The Steel started passing laterally rather than driving through the court and the Mystics were able to gratefully pick off any sloppy passes.
"It's still one game at a time," Southby said.
"We've got to focus on the processes, we can't get ahead of ourselves.
"It's disappointing but we've got another opportunity next week [against the Pulse] and we've got to take that."
The Steel are yet to win in the rebuilt Stadium Southland, in fact Southland teams are 0-3 following the Sharks' opening round NBL loss to the Nuggets.
Meanwhile, the West Coast Fever pulled off a surprise 53-51 win over the Adelaide Thunderbirds to consign the defending champions to a third straight loss.
In the curtain-raiser at Stadium Southland, Southland Girls' High School beat South Otago High School 28-17 with Laura Moffatt from Girls' High named player of the game.
(Steel first): 19-19, 32-36, 49-48, 61-67.
Steel: Jhaniele Fowler-Reid 47/49, Jodi Brown 14/17.
Mystics: Cathrine Latu 47/47, Maria Tutaia 20/27.
The Southland Times