Dominant defensive work set the stage for Robinhood Stars to clinch a hard-fought 47-39 win over Splice Construction Magic in Auckland on Saturday.
The Stars backed up their one-goal win from last week to gain a second set of maximum points after making their move in the second and third quarters against the Magic.
Both teams struggled with their conversion rates under the hoop but it was the defensive combination of Holly Fowler, Elle Temu and veteran Anna Harrison who laid the winning platform.
In her 150th national league match, Harrison, the league’s oldest player at 39, was a lethal presence anywhere near the ball as she pocketed five intercepts and numerous deflections.
The Magic had little consolation in winning the first and final quarters after coming completely unstuck and with few answers during the middle stages.
The Stars presented with a proven starting seven, Jamie Hume getting the nod at goal attack and Kayla Johnson, the start at wing defence. The well-performed Ivana Rowland started at goal attack for Magic with Georgia Edgecombe slotting in at goal attack.
It was all Magic in the opening exchanges, their pace and efficiency on attack paying dividends in an enterprising start. Five goals on the trot pushed the Magic out to a 7-2 lead in the first five minutes, while defender Oceane Maihi was temporarily forced from the court with a bloodied nose.
The Stars climbed their way back into the contest through some great defensive gains from attackers Hume and Mila Reuelu-Buchanan.
However, it was late burst which pushed the Magic to a wining first quarter for the first time since Round 1, when they headed into the break 14-12 in front.
With Maihi back on court and Holly Fowler replacing Johnson, there was plenty of action on the resumption, not all of it clinical. Neither coach would have been happy with the turnover rate but it made for an entertaining spectacle as play swung back and forth.
The well-performed Stars defensive duo of Harrison and Temu got their hands on plenty of turnover opportunities but it was often wasted at the other end. It was a similar story for the Magic, with Maihi, in particular, impressing when attacking the ball with good reward.
Eseta Autagavaia took over from Rowland as the Magic struggled to convert their opportunities. Levelling the scores, it was the Stars who shone brightest when scoring the last three goals to turn the first quarter deficit into a 24-21 lead at the main break.
Things didn’t get any better for the Magic during a testing third stanza, their shooters constantly unnerved by the disruptively long reaches of Harrison, in particular, and Temu. The ageless Harrison was relentless as the Magic shooters lost their nerve under the hoop.
Claire Kersten and Samantha Winders were honest toilers through the Magic midcourt but a nine-minute stretch without scoring, during which the Stars converted 10 in a row, proved the nail in the coffin.
Getting plenty of ball from their defensive end, Stars midcourters Gina Crampton and Reuelu-Buchanan gave their shooters – who themselves had some shaky moments – a steady supply, but winning the possession stakes gave them breathing space.
Restricted to just seven goals in each of the second and third quarters left the Magic facing an uphill battle when the Stars took a 37-28 lead into the last break.