The Tactix, boosted by a record home crowd of over 4800, looked to have scored sweet revenge over their perennial rivals the Mystics, who snatched a three-goal win from them only two rounds ago.
But in an action-packed final 10 seconds, the Mystics came from a goal down to win by one – and lifted themselves to within two points of the top four.
As expected, little separated the two sides for the opening stages, until the Mystics’ midcourt defence warmed up and a three-goal gap deveoped. Cat Latu was strong and steady under the hoop, creatively fed by Maria Tutaia.
But then the Tactix would show flashes of brilliance: a spectacular Keisha Grant backhanded pass; a blinding steal by Hayley Saunders; a one-handed rebound take from Mwai Kumwenda. And then the obscure: a blood-curdling yowl from Kumwenda demanding the long ball while she waited under the post alone.
Fittingly, it was Kumwenda who put the Tactix one ahead, 16-15, at the end of the first entertaining 15 minutes.
The Tactix continued to build on their confidence after the break with Jade Clark rocketing the ball through the Mystics defence to Kumwenda. But Anna Harrison rallied the Mystics’ defence, bringing them back to level pegging.
A pattern developed; like a bungy cord, the Tactix’ lead would stretch out to three, and the Mystics would repeatedly pull them back in, with the score 32-31, in the Tactix’ favour, at halftime.
The Mystics brought impact player Temalisi Fakahokotau into their defensive circle, looking to rattle the on-form Kumwenda and give Harrison more room to hunt the ball. But some misunderstandings throughout the Mystics line-up allowed the Tactix to jump out to their largest lead yet of five goals.
But in classic Mystics’ style, they lifted the intensity again, poured pressure on the Tactix attack, and established a measure of control once more. A perfectly weighted long lob from Tutaia in the final seconds put the visitors ahead 46-45 going into the final spell.
Louise Thayer was injected into the Tactix defence to try to unravel the Mystics’ new-found rhythm. Players threw themselves at the loose ball in a desperate effort to gain the upper-hand, and it was the Tactix – with the screaming home crowd behind them and a smoother route through court – who nudged in front again.
It was a matter of remaining calm and composed for the final minutes. But when the Tactix were stopped short with an offside call on the edge of their attacking circle with 10 seconds remaining, Latu quickly turned it into a match-leveller at the other end.
Tutaia converted a penalty shot in the final second, and the deflated Tactix – and their disbelieving crowd - were left in shock.
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse