Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.
Central Pulse star Maddy Gordon was a key figure in securing her side a home final.
At The Trusts Arena, Auckland: Central Pulse 58 (Aliyah Dunn 37/41, Tiana Metuarau 17/21, Amelia Walmsley 3/4, Renee Matoe 1/2) Northern Mystics 40 (Grace Namana 32/37, Monica Falkner 5/6, Phoenix Karaka 1/3, Filda Vui 2/2). 1Q: 14-12, HT: 26-22, 3Q: 43-28.
Cental Pulse will host the ANZ Premiership final on the back of four straight wins to end the regular season.
In what was effectively a shoot-out to host the final or finish third, the Pulse proved way too strong for the depleted Northern Mystics 58–40, but for the opening half, it was much more competitive than that.
All is not lost for the Mystics, they will take on the Stars in Wednesday’s elimination final at Pulman Arena, with the winner advancing to the grand final on (Sunday) June 12 at TSB Arena in Wellington.
An understrength Mystics were up against it with superstar goal shoot Grace Nweke sitting in the stands, still nursing her ankle injury, plus a recent Covid-19 outbreak and injuries ripping apart the team.
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Starting midcourters Tayla Earle and Elisapeta Toeava were two key figures watching on with Nweke as Magic wing attack Ariana Cable-Dixon was drafted into the starting lineup for the Mystics and former Pulse and Tactix player Gemma Etheredge was brought onto the bench from the netball wilderness.
The new-look squad was only able to complete one full training before going head-to-head with the Pulse.
Mystics coach Helene Wilson also moved Filda Vui to the bench in a bid to manage her minutes due to an Achilles complaint.
It took the Pulse 10 minutes into the first quarter to find the lead (11-10) as the plucky outsiders came to play.
The margin was stretched to five in the second quarter but the giant-killing Mystics just wouldn’t go away, fighting to close the gap to four right before halftime.
Mystics goal shoot Grace Namana was ultra-impressive in the first half but Wilson run the changes at the break with Phoenix Karaka replacing her and Vui to goal attack.
It was a move that didn’t work with the Pulse dominating the third quarter and stretching the margin from four goals at halftime, to 15 by the final break after winning the third quarter 17-6.
Maddy Gordon went to another level as Aliyah Dunn kept her accuracy at 91% with 31 goals by three-quarter time.
With the game gone, the final quarter fell away in quality as both coaches made multiple changes and the match drifted to an inevitable conclusion.
Best on court
Cable-Dixon and Namana were outstanding for the Mystics and Sulu Fitzpatrick made everything hard for the Pulse shooters but ultimately, despite the standout shooting of Dunn, it was hard to go past the energetic Gordon. Her anticipation and ability to put herself in the right place at the right time was often the difference for the Pulse.
The big moment
The Pulse went on a run where they scored eight out of 10 goals midway through the third quarter. With Namana off the court, the Mystics looked lost in the circle and by the time she came back, the Pulse’s lead had blown out to 12 goals at 38-26.
7/10. It wasn’t always free-flowing high-quality netball but to see a drastically understrength Mystics front up with such passion and courage in the face of adversity to make a competitive game – for the first half at least – of it was a heartwarming and entertaining way to spend a Friday night.
The big picture
Stars host Mystics in Wednesday’s elimination final. Winner takes on Pulse on Sunday week.