The 17-match winning streak of the Southern Steel has come to an end, toppled by pre-season favourites Central Pulse, 62-51, in Palmerston North.
The Steel could find no answer for the Pulse’s young shooting duo of Aliyah Dunn and Tiana Metuarau, who showed an incredible understanding in their first season together, finding each other on attack effortlessly, time after time.
Eighteen-year-old Dunn, who has been working with Pulse shooting specialist Irene van Dyk over the summer, proved why she has earned two starts from two games in the ANZ Premiership, scoring 41 from 45. Metuarau, in support, missed just one of her 22 attempts.
The Pulse, the youngest team in this year’s league, built on a nervous first-up win over the Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic the previous day, to dominate their Steel counterparts throughout the court. The Steel showed they are a team in rebuild mode, having lost stars over the summer and needing to re-establish connections with their Silver Fern players.
Dunn, who moved away from her home city Invercargill this year, scored the first four goals of the game for the Pulse, while the Steel struggled to get on the scoreboard. The Steel defence eventually kicked into action and brought the 2017 champions into the game.
At the heart of the Pulse, Whitney Souness and Clare Kersten were on song both on attack and defence, and helped ensure the Pulse had a 16-12 lead at the first break.
They managed to hold the Steel at arm’s length through the second quarter, ahead 32-27 at halftime, through the consistent defence of Karin Burger and Sulu Fitzpatrick.
Steel goal shoot Jennifer O’Connell was shooting accurately and moving strongly, but wasn’t given enough ball under the hoop. She ended the match with 33 shots from 39.
Going into the final 15 minutes up 48-40, the Pulse brought 17-year-old Renee Savai’inaea into wing defence, and continued to grow in confidence. The Steel, on the other hand, were let down by uncharacteristic errors and a reluctance to put the ball into space.
For the first time the Pulse lead the ANZ Premiership leaderboard with one game remaining in round one tomorrow night in Auckland when the Northern Mystics host the Mainland Tactix