Southland upset North 55-54 on Friday to battle their way into the national netball championships final against defending champions Auckland-Waitakere in Rotorua on Saturday.
Showing impressive composure under pressure and a commendable willingness to work the ball round, Southland came back from a 26-28 halftime deficit to win their semifinal.
In the end, Southland’s shooting duo proved the difference between the two teams, although the base for the win came in the supply of possession from midcourters Wendy Telfer and Hayley Crofts.
Southland player-coach Natalie Avellino shared the shooting load with impressive young goal attack Julianna Naoupu, Avellino shooting 22 from 28 and Naoupu 33 from 43.
Avellino, a former Australian representative, was rapt at the final result.
“We were a little bit more composed, we were steady and patient and I think that’s where North lost it a little bit,” she told Sky TV.
With canny former Silver Fern Vilimaina Davu her usual disruptive self at goal keep for North, Southland needed plenty of patience in working the ball around the circle.
They also had centre Temepara George to contend with, as the disruptive former Silver Fern proved a handful on attack and a downright nuisance on defence.
For North, goal shoot Catherine Latu shouldered almost the entire shooting burden, particularly in the first 30 minutes, as goal attack Brigette Tapene sunk only two from three shots.
That lack of options, and some solid defensive work from goal keep Dana Bond and goal defence Kylie Young for Southland, proved pivotal in the second spell.
Latu shot well, sinking 49 from 58 attempts for an 88 percent success rate while Tapene put up nine shots in the entire game, sinking five.
Latu showed commendable poise to keep North ahead 40-39 at the end of the third quarter after Southland fought back from a five-goal deficit midway through the spell.
In a frantic final quarter, with the teams trading goal for goal, it was Southland ‘s calmness in working the ball through the midcourt which secured them the last-gasp win.
Auckland-Waitakere paced their semifinal win over fourth-ranked Otago well, as the southerners kept them under early pressure and tied the scores 14-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Auckland-Waitakere’s constant midcourt defensive pressure started to tell in the second spell and they went into the main break 26-22 ahead.
Trailing 32-39 at three-quarter time, Otago battled back well to come within three of the northerners midway through the final spell.
But some excellent work from goal shoot Jade Topia, who shot at 87 percent in sinking 43 from 49 attempts, pulled Auckland-Waitakere through for the win.
Otago paid the price for some wayward shooting, especially in the first half, when possession won by solid defending was repeatedly squandered.
The Otago shooters, headed by Jess Tuki and Grier Campbell, had more than enough possession, putting up 69 shots over the entire game, but sunk only 42 at 61 percent.
Much of the credit for that went to Auckland-Waitakere’s defensive circle unit of Kate Dowling and Rachel Rasmussen, who placed Otago’s shooters under constant pressure.
Auckland coach Paula Bailey stuck with her starting combination throughout, and was rewarded with a more cohesive team effort, especially in the midcourt where Grace Rasmussen and Rawinia Everitt moved the ball confidently and fed their shooters well.