Southern Steel maintain composure, get win
Southern Steel defender Erena Mikaere was allowed to lever her lanky frame off the bench against the West Coast Fever this afternoon and she made the most of the opportunity in a thrilling 66-65 win for the the home team in Dunedin.
It was the Steel's first win in four starts this season, and the franchise's first victory over the Fever since 2010.
Mikaere spent three seasons trying to get some sort of court time with the Magic ahead of the international pairing of Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin before opting to head south and join the Steel at the start of this season.
The Steel aren't short of defenders, with New Zealand under 21 captain Storm Purvis, new Silver Fern Phoenix Karaka and the veteran Rachel Rasmussen on the books.
Given her first chance to start in a Steel goal keep bib against the well-travelled Fever, Mikaere made a real nuisance of herself with her 193cm frame, finding deflections and rebounds in a Fever shooting circle which included internationals Natalie Medhurst and Caitlin Bassett.
Mikaere's influence helped Steel to a fantastic start, which included an early break and a 19-16 lead at the end of the first quarter, in front of a 2000-strong crowd at Dunedin's Edgar Centre.
It probably should have been more, but the Steel were guilty of spilling chances to pull further away.
As expected, the Fever broke Steel's possession early in the second quarter and would have drawn level if it weren't for a Wendy Frew turnover at a crucial moment.
Jhaniele Fowler-Reid was guilty of a couple of uncharacteristic bobbles which were welcome gifts for Fever defenders Eboni
Beckford-Chambers and Josie Janz.
Jodi Brown, who was impressive against the Magic on Monday night, was stepping her game up again, landing 16 from 17 in the first half as the Steel took a 37-29 lead into the break.
The Fever were their own worst enemies at times, Medhurst and centre Khao Watts dishing up stepping calls which handed some hard-earned momentum back the way of the Steel.
Stacey Peeters was introduced for Frew during the second quarter, meaning all of Steel's squad had so far seen court time during the first four games of the season.
In a horror start to the second half, it only took the Fever six minutes to get back onto equal terms with the Steel at 40-all.
From there it was a matter of which team would break first, and, although a Phillipa Finch step went unpunished, Rasmussen and Mikaere combined to squeeze a turnover which allowed the Steel to sneak into the final quarter with a three goal lead.
In a tense and, at times, frenetic final quarter, the Fever pulled level again with three minutes to play.
Tied 65-all going into the final minute it was the Steel who showed just enough composure to bank a much-needed one-goal win.
The game was preceded by a moments' silence for former Otago NPC, under 21 and New Zealand A coach Sheryll Roy who passed away in February.
AT A GLANCE
Quarter scores (Steel first) 19-16, 37-29, 52-49, 66-65.
Steel: Jhaniele Fowler-Reid 39/40, Jodi Brown 24/27
Fever: Caitlin Bassett 50/53, Natalie Medhurst 15/18