The Northern Mystics have secured top spot in the New Zealand Conference of the trans-Tasman netball Championship after beating the Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic 54-49 in Auckland.
Casey Kopua had hoped to return from injury for this match, but she didn't make it on court.
The game was almost sealed from the start as the homeside got off to a flyer, while the Magic struggled, it was 17-8 at the first break.
With 2 rounds remaining the Mystics are safe on 14 points, the Magic are in second on nine, with the Southern Steel and Central Pulse still in the mix too, on eight.
The Mystics will get the advantage of having a bye in the first week of the playoffs and hosting the conference decider.
Desperate for a different strategy on defence, the Magic introduced young debutant Aisha Bower at wing defence to start the second spell. It was the boost they needed, as gradually they sliced the difference from 11 to six - Leana de Bruin strangling the supply to shooter Maria Tutaia, while their shooters Jo Harten and Malia Paseka finally got the ball they so coveted.
The Mystics had suddenly become guilty of not treasuring possession, and although they led 29-23 at halftime, they were all too well aware of the Magic's skill of bouncing back.
Temalisi Fakahokotau entered the game after half-time into the Mystics defence line and made her presence felt immediately. But otherwise, the action for the next 10 minutes was all made by the Magic, who closed to within three courtesy of some intelligent midcourt attack and defence from Price and Grace Rasmussen.
In the fading stages of the crucial third quarter, Laura Langman rallied her troops by example, showing no sign of the hip injury that forced her off the court in their last game.
And with Latu proving yet again why she is the most accurate shooter in the league - missing just one shot in her 24 attempts (a record she maintained till the end) - the Mystics restored some order at 41-35 ahead going into the final spell.
Katherine Coffin came into the game at goal defence for the Mystics in the final quarter. While the Mystics stayed on top, with a tuned-in Langman in the thick of everything, there were still lapses in concentration by the home side - but they were almost always recovered by acts of brilliance.
Mystics shooting statistics:
Cathrine Latu: 30/31 (97%)
Maria Tutaia: 24/31 (77%)
Magic shooting statistics:
Jo Harten: 35/45 (78%)
Malia Paseka: 14/19 (74%)
MVP: Laura Langman (Mystics)