Mystics celebrate 63-51 victory over Fever
Maria Tutaia's 100th Trans-Tasman netball league match ended in celebratory fashion in Auckland tonight, while retirement-bound West Coast Fever coach Norma Plummer experienced a sour end to her coaching swan song in New Zealand.
Tutaia rebounded from an uncharacteristically inaccurate opening half to help guide the Mystics to a 63-51 victory that eased some frustrations following an unfulfilling campaign from one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Although the round 13 closer outcome had no bearing on qualification for the finals series - both sides were already among the back markers - the clash at The Trusts Arena in Waitakere was a significant occasion for the Silver Ferns shooter and former Australian national coach.
A dominant third quarter, where the Mystics outscored the West Australians 18-9 enabled the Aucklanders to avenge a 27-goal loss in Perth when the sides last met in round two last season.
"On attack we were a lot more clinical, we've been working on our combinations," said a relieved Tutaia, who netted 24 from 35.
The goal attack landed just half of her eight attempts in the first quarter though shooting partner Cathrine Latu (11/13) kept the home side in touch and was strong throughout.
In contrast Caitlin Bassett and Natalie Medhurst - Australia's expected shooting partnership at Glasgow in July-August - did not miss a beat up to halftime but that accuracy was counterbalanced by a crippling turnover rate.
The Mystics held a slender 30-29 lead at the main break thanks to Latu and Tutaia making 11 more attempts than their Perth-based counterparts as Bailey Mes - in her first outing at wing attack this season after recovering from a knee injury - and rookie goal keep Temalisa Fakahokotau made some telling interceptions.
Mes, the fifth player used at wing attack by the Mystics this season, was a revelation in a midcourt battle where Silver Ferns stalwart Laura Langman also had one of the happier outings of a difficult first year at the franchise.
A 7-0 run midway through the second quarter pushed the Mystics in front though Tutaia (6/8) still struggled to find her range.
However, the Silver Ferns star eventually lived up to her reputation in the decisive penultimate term with a perfect 10 from 10 as the Mystics stretched their lead to double figures heading down the home stretch.
Fakahokotau, who has been invited to a Silver Ferns pre-Games training camp, continued to excel in defence as the Mystics built an impregnable lead, a gulf that forced Plummer to replace her captain Medhurst - who was also making her 100th appearance with Kate Beveridge for the final quarter.
Four unanswered goals gave the Fever a brief glimmer of hope but the Mystics held firm to improve to seventh, now two places clear of the Fever.
The Mystics wrap up an unfulfilling campaign at the high-flying NSW Swifts in Sydney on Sunday while Plummer's stellar career comes to an end on Monday against a Central Pulse side mentored by fellow veteran Robyn Broughton.
Northern Mystics 63 (Cathrine Latu 39/43, Maria Tutaia 24/35)
West Coast Fever 51 (Caitlin Bassett 35/37, Natalie Medhurst 12/12, Kate Beveridge 4/6)
1st Q 15-17, HT 30-29, 3rd Q 48-38