The Southern Steel narrowly escaped an overtime challenge to beat the Northern Mystics 68-67 in Dunedin last night and seal a home final in the ANZ Netball Premiership.
The Steel remain unbeaten.
Last night's match against the Mystics was the Steel's most demanding challenge to date, momentum swinging throughout the match with the outcome in doubt from beginning to end.
Finishing each quarter strongly proved the difference for the Steel. With the Mystics levelling the scores with six seconds on the clock, overtime loomed before quick transitional play gave the Steel the clincher on the final buzzer.
It did not take long for the home team to slip into their customary dominant mode when resisting a purposeful start by the Mystics with a forceful reply.
Quick to punish anything loose by the Mystics, the Steel pushed out to an early six-goal lead, the speed of accuracy on attack by Gina Crampton and Shannon Francois providing a seamless supply of ball to key target Jhaniele Fowler-Reid under the hoop.
The Mystics struggled to contain the intensity and accuracy of the always busy and creative Steel. Just when the floodgates looked set to open, the Mystics produced a late quarter surge which helped steer them back on course.
A couple of late turnovers kept the score in check during a high-scoring first quarter with Fowler-Reid posting a personal haul of 17 as the Steel went to the first break with a 20-16 lead.
Rejigging their defensive line helped enforce a productive second stanza from the visitors. With both teams impressing with their flair and vision on attack, it was the Mystics who continued to grow in confidence.
Attacking pair Maria Tutaia and Elisapeta Toeava were the driving force behind the Mystics resilience while shooter Bailey Mes was a key contributor with her aerial skills, athletic ability and accuracy under the hoop.
Bringing the game alive, the visitors briefly nosed their way in front, the Steel having the last say during which Fowler-Reid posted her 600th goal of the season to help the home team steady the ship and take a narrow 37-35 lead into the main break.
Both teams produced a pulsating 15 minutes of play during the all-important third quarter.
The Mystics came out all guns blazing, quickly making up the deficit as they burst into the lead through a mix of patience and exhilarating attacking play. Mes dominated her defenders to play a prominent role as the Mystics strode out to a four-goal lead.