In a frantic finish to a momentum-swinging match, the Robinhood Northern Stars held their nerve to shade Splice Construction Magic 46-45 in a come from behind thriller in Hamilton on Sunday.
Leading by three heading into the run home, Magic slowly had their lead whittled away through strong defensive efforts from the Stars. But with just under a minute to go and the scores level, the Magic held their fate in their own hands, a missed goal opening the door for their opponents.
Stars goal attack Jamie Hume, who produced a sound all-round game nailed the winner with time almost up.
It was a game that could have gone either way, each side having their moments but unable to take a firm grip, the Magic’s bonus point loss reflecting the story of their season.
Exciting young schoolgirl shooter Khiarna Williams was handed her second start of the season along with Georgia Tong, in her debut season, being rewarded for her impressive recent form for Magic.
The were no surprises in a familiar Stars line-up with Lisa Mather getting the nod at wing defence.
There was little to separate the teams early on, turnovers both ways providing plenty of opportunities to seize the initiative.
However, it was the Stars who benefitted most through their slicker and more accurate transition through court. Composed and scoring freely, they looked set to push on after a four-goal streak pushed them out to a handy lead.
Not to be outdone, the Magic staged a late-surging revival with shooter Kelsey McPhee and Williams with less ball, completing 100 percent returns and trimming the Stars lead to just 12-11 at the first break.
Play-making goal attack Abigail Latu-Meafou took over from Williams on the resumption but it was the Stars who made the early running. With Mather, Kate Burley and Storm Purvis getting hands on ball at the defensive end, helped along by Mila Reuelu-Buchanan hustling well, the Stars took a semblance of control.
But in a repeat of the opening quarter, there were loose passages of play both ways, the long reach of Erena Mikaere getting more ball into the Magic’s hands. Another surge from the Magic, with Latu-Meafou landing all her attempts, and key attacker Whitney Souness adding her skillset, kept the home side well in the contest.
The slick rapport between the prolific Maia Wilson and her sidekick Hume helped the Stars keep their noses in front when leading 25-23 at the main break.
Magic made the perfect start to the third term, posting the first three goals to slip into the lead but it proved short-lived. Plagued all season by failing to consolidate, the Magic once again, fell victim to a rash of soft turnovers.
Five straight goals pushed the Stars into a four-goal lead as they looked set to put their foot down. However, the Magic were far from done, sticking purposefully to the task at hand.
With Jenna O’Sullivan coming on at goal defence for Tong in the closing minutes, the home side made a big late burst, five goals on the trot going hand-in-hand with their never-say-die attitude to level the scores and then hit the lead.
Not letting go of the moment, the Magic kept their poise to push on to be well-positioned when taking a hard-won 38-35 lead into the last break.