WEST Coast Fever maintained its perfect start to the 2016 ANZ Championship season, securing a 54-44 victory over Northern Mystics at The Trusts Arena in Auckland on Monday .
In a match that saw a series of momentum shifts, Fever’s superior fitness and experience in the final quarter proved too strong for the home side, sending them equal top of the Australian Conference with the NSW Swifts and Queensland Firebirds.
Mystics coach Debbie Fuller sprung a selection surprise before the game, handing former basketballer Megan Craig her ANZ Championship debut at goal shooter.
Craig, along with Captain Maria Tutaia, benefited from strong defensive work from teammates Holly Fowler and Anna Harrison to haul back Fever’s early lead and take a two-goal advantage to the first break.
Turnovers from both sides dominated the beginning of the second term, before Fever coach Stacey Rosman turned to her bench, injecting Kate Beveridge at wing attack to combat the height of Harrison.
Beveridge’s impact was immediate as Fever’s delivery into the shooting circle improved, allowing both Nat Medhurst and Caitlin Bassett to convert their opportunities and halt the Mystics impetus, keeping the margin at two goals at halftime.
The main break brought further change for the visitors, with New Zealand native Erena Mikaere introduced at goal keeper to combat the height of Craig, and allowing Courtney Bruce further freedom at goal defence to continue her sublime work from the first half.
A 13-10 third quarter from Fever wrestled the momentum in their favour, with slick midcourt ball movement and some fine finishing from Bassett and Medhurst leading to a one-goal advantage at the final break, silencing the boisterous home crowd.
The visitors picked up exactly where they left off in the final term, with four consecutive goals opening up an insurmountable lead.
Silverfern Catherine Tuivaiti was thrown into the mix late in the fourth quarter, and did her level best to inspire a Mystics comeback but it was too little too late, with Fever eventually recording a 10 goal victory.
Fever returned home yesterday to begin work ahead of their first of two consecutive home games this Sunday afternoon against the Mainland Tactix at HBF Stadium.