Trinidad and Tobago’s Kalifa McCollin sizzled as the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel celebrated their long-awaited return to their Invercargill home court by producing an upset 51-47 win over the high-flying, second-placed Northern Mystics on Friday morning in New Zealand’s ANZ Premiership Netball League.
However, facing their second big challenge in 24 hours after upsetting the Mystics, the Steel could not reproduce their heroics the following day and suffered a 49-34 home defeat to the Central Pulse, the league’s leading team. McCollin still had a big game when connecting on 19 of 22 attempts but she could not match the production from the Pulse’s Aliyah Dunn, who converted 30 goals from 32 tries.
On Friday, coming off a double loss last weekend and residing near the foot of the table, the Steel had to dig deep to hold off a late-charging Mystics outfit and retain the much-coveted Georgie Salter Memorial Trophy.
The Steel rocketed out to a nine-goal lead in the first quarter, protecting it through their resilient and experienced heads for the remainder of the contest.
Third on the table coming into the game and pressing their claims for a spot in the Grand Final, the Mystics did enough to claim a much-needed bonus point but never recovered from a slow start.
Playing in front of their faithful at ILT Stadium Southland for the first time this season, the Steel got off to a dream start.
Steel home fans got a first sight of Trinidad and Tobago import Kalifa McCollin and weren’t disappointed as the athletic goal attack turned on an impressive opening 12 minutes to get the southerners on the front foot. Fifth on the overall shooting table with 243 goals from 291 attempts, McCollin showed all her international class to make handy space under the hoop while also completing a perfect 11/11 in the first quarter.
The growing connection between McCollin and recent replacement, policewoman Ellen Halpenny, led the Steel to victory with McCollin putting in 32 goals from 36 tries while Halpenny got another 19 goals from 23. They were both out-shot by towering shooter Grace Nweke, who scored a massive 41 goals from 44 attempts for the Mystics.
But while Steel got solid production from both of their main shooters Nweke, the almost six-foot, four-inch New Zealander of Nigerian ancestry, bore the brunt of the work for the Mystics when taking her tally to a season-high 434 goals. Her shooting partner and Mystics’ goal-attack, Saviour Toi, only converted four goals from as many tries.
The Steel jumped on anything loose and powered out to a decisive 17-8 lead at the first break. The Mystics held a slight edge through the second stanza but the Steel regained their poise and retained a handy 29-22 lead at the halftime break. The Mystics made an early third quarter charge but, weathering the storm, McCollin and Halpenny continued to add to the scoreboard, shooting their team out to a 12-goal lead before the Steel settled for 43-34 margin at the end of three quarters, leaving the Mystics with too much to do at the end.