North Shore United booked their place in the Preliminary Final of the 2016 SAMSUNG Premier League Opens Division with a thrilling 55-48 extra-time win over the UTS St George Sparks at Netball Central on Wednesday 10 August.
In what proved to be one of the best games of the year, United just had enough to edge a committed and impressive Sparks outfit who pushed their opponents to the absolute limit.
In the end it was a question of which side had more gas and on the night it was North Shore, who now know all about the pressures of knock-out netball after falling behind often in the game.
A nice, long-range double from Holly Pearce got the Sparks up and running in the first quarter before Kadeen Corbin got United back on level terms with some impressive shots of her own.
Short passing games from both sides were the order of the day early on as the two defences pressed up hard, leaving little room for fast, free flowing netball and midway through the first quarter the sides were locked a five goals apiece.
Good off the ball movement by Corbin was keeping the UTS defence on its toes, however, the final pass in the shooting circle often went astray for United, allowing their opponents head up court and give Pearce the chance punish them. She duly did and UTS St George took a 9-6 lead to the first break.
That was short lived as United came out of the blocks firing in the second quarter with three quick-fire goals putting them back on level terms and bursting the game into life.
The centres for both sides – Belynda Loveday and Hayley Wilson – were getting through a mountain of work, and with the midcourt battle fairly evenly poised the pressure was on the shooters to deliver on what chances they were given.
Pearce and Laura Towell (GS) stepped up to take UTS out to a five-goal lead (19-14) three minutes from halftime but poor control in the final third allowed their opponents whip the ball back up court, and Corbin the chance of an easy double. She took it and only two goals separated the sides at the big break.
The third quarter started out a tense, scrappy affair with little in the way of fluent movement. That, however, was mainly due to the harrying defence of the sides, which was relentless. The Sparks still held their two-goal advantage (24-22) midway through the period but little was coming easy for either side.
In defence Nardia Macdonald and Ash Fong were putting in sterling efforts for North Shore, while Tayla Fraser (C) was at the centre of everything for the Sparks.
Closing in on the final break something finally gave and good passing into the circle allowed Corbin and Emily Moore get North Shore back on level terms before the former put them in the lead. Suddenly United had the bit between their teeth and were swarming forward, eventually taking a three-goal advantage to three-quarter time.
With a Preliminary Final place on the line the Sparks evened the score, and then retook the lead early in the final quarter with patient, controlled netball. The contest may have been low scoring, but it was no less absorbing as both sides threw everything at each other.
The four shooters traded goals – some from distance – in what became a tit-for-tat affair and with five on the clock only one goal was enough to separate the sides – 36-35. By full time United had made up that small deficit and the Semi Final was headed for extra time.
More of the same was the formula for the opening period of added time before North Shore scored four quick goals to take a 47-43 lead heading into the second period of it, which in the context of the game was huge.
Excellent work from the likes of wing attack Victoria Trist meant United kept the pressure up and, try as they did, the Sparks weren’t able to close the gap. Cool finishes from Moore and Corbin saw North Shore close out the game and book their place in the Prelim next week.
UNITED | Q1: 6 – Q2: 18 (12) – Q3: 30 (12) – Q4 39 (9) – ET: 55 (16)
SPARKS | Q1: 9 – Q2: 20 (11) – Q3: 27 (7) – Q4: 39 (12) – ET: 48 (9)
SPARKS: 48/63 @ 76%
L Towell: 1/5 @ 20%
H Pearce: 27/33 @ 82%
C Russell: 9/14 @ 64%
N Eldridge: 11/11 @ 100%
UNITED: 55/67 @ 82%
Kadeen Corbin: 38/46 @ 70%
E Moore: 17/24 @ 71%
SPARKS| GS Laura Towell, GA Holly Pearce, WA Tayla Fraser, C Belynda Loveday, WD Brooke Lawrence, GD Nicole Styles, GK Kara Styles.
UNITED | GS Kadeen Corbin, GA Emily Moore, WA Victoria Trist, C Hayley Wilson, WD Jaimie McKee, GD Ash Fong, GK Nardia Macdonald.