11 Jun 2016

Steel extinguish Firebirds

6:31 pm on 11 June 2016

The Southern Steel retained their unbeaten record after storming home to post a 66-51 win over an under-strength Queensland Firebirds in Dunedin on Saturday.

Jhaniele Fowler-Reid

Jhaniele Fowler-Reid Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Missing key players, a slow start counted against the defending champion Firebirds, who were left chasing the game in coach Roselee Jencke's 100th match in charge.

Umpire Jono Bredin also posted a personal milestone in becoming the first New Zealand referee to notch 100 games.

But it was the imposing Steel shooter, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, who steered her side to victory, as the Jamaican converted a personal haul of 51 goals.

With their frontline defensive pairing of captain Laura Geitz and Clare McMeniman ruled out for injury reasons, it was a new-look Firebirds team who took the court.

The major talking point was the transition of Firebirds sharp shooter Romelda Aiken to the other end of the court and into goalkeeper to mark her Jamaican team-mate Fowler-Reid.

Having donned the goalkeeper's bib at international level, it was not an entirely foreign move for Aiken who did a good job in disrupting the Steel's flow, the twin towers going toe-to-toe during the opening stanza.

As a result, goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit stepped up to play an influential role under the Steel hoop with her accuracy and delivery skills. At the other end, her sister Te Huinga, at goal defence, had an equally impressive start as she reeled in a number of rebounds, deflections and tips.

The Firebirds lacked accuracy under the hoop, giving the Steel the impetus to forge a 14-8 lead at the first break.

The Firebirds introduced Beryl Friday (goal shoot) and Hulita Haukinima (wing defence) on the resumption but still found the going tough in trying to contain the accuracy, patience and measured approach of the Steel who powered to the half-time break with a 31-19 advantage.

With Aiken moving back to her more accustomed position of goal shoot in the second half, the confidence returned to the Firebirds.

Centre Kim Ravaillion found an instant connection with Aiken, who potted 14 goals during the quarter, while wing attack Mahalia Cassidy provided strong drive to the circle.

Showing their ability to score quickly, the Firebirds went on to win the quarter, the hosts holding on to a 47-37 lead at the last break.

But that was as good as it got, the Steel putting their foot down in the run home.

Steel Shooting Statistics

Jhaniele Fowler-Reid

Te Paea Selby-Rickit

Brooke Leaver

Firebirds Shooting Statistics

Chelsea Lemke 0/3 (0%)

Gretel Tippett 16/19 (84%)

Beryl Friday 8/9 (89%)

Romelda Aiken 27/32 (84%)

MVP: Te Paea Selby-Rickit (Steel)