A transfusion of new blood, in the form of shooter Ameliaranne Wells, gave Mojo Pulse the shot of energy they needed to shake off Mainland Tactix for a 48-41 win in Christchurch tonight.
The international-heavy Pulse had carried an invigorated Tactix on their backs for most of the first half, with barely a goal separating them, until Wells – whose previous ANZ Championship career has been with the Queensland Firebirds - came into the attack and changed the pace. Her contribution of 14 goals from 17 attempts was a welcome boost for the Pulse, whose experienced shooters had struggled with their accuracy under pressure from the fired-up Tactix defence.
It was a loose start all-round, with simple shots missed and down-court passes thrown askew. The Pulse took an early two-goal lead, but the Tactix stayed in sync throughout the quarter.
It was the first time Mwai Kumwenda and Bailey Mes had started together in the shooting circle for the Tactix, and they had their work cut out for them up against a cloying Pulse defence, driven by their import goal keep, Ama Agbeze. Anna Thompson, at centre, still managed to show some smart vision with searing feeds in to Kumwenda, who was on target under the net.
In the final minute of the spell, the lead volleyed back and forth between the two sides, but the Pulse held the upper-hand 12-11 at the first break.
Long-time shooting partners Irene van Dyk and Jodi Brown seemed to need the first quarter to settle in, but even into the second spell, they continued to be ruffled by the Tactix circle defenders Jess Moulds and Demelza Fellowes. With five minutes left in the half, and the Pulse still up by one, Brown – nursing a minor injury - went to the bench and Ameliaranne Wells entered the picture.
The appearance of Wells – with her snappy speed and accuracy - gave immediate payback to the Pulse who scored the next three goals, and went to halftime up 24-21.
Pulse coach Robyn Broughton asked for good, controlled netball from her side in the third quarter, and, for the most part, they kept her happy, soon extending their lead out to five goals and holding it at the end of the quarter. Liana Leota continued to marshal the Pulse attack, and most of Wells’ long, looping shots found their target.
Up 35-30, the Pulse had another shuffle of their shooting personnel, pairing up Wells and Brown. The Tactix made up some ground, closing the gap to within three as Kumwenda continued to shoot with 90 percent accuracy. But the Pulse’s midcourt defence – especially from veteran Joline Henry - was unrelenting and time ran out for the Tactix to draw any closer.
Tactix shooting statistics:
Mwai Kumwenda 26/29 (89%)
Bailey Mes 15/26 (57%)
Gemma Hazeldine 0/1 (0%)
Pulse shooting statistics:
Irene van Dyk 16/21 (76%)
Jodi Brown 18/27 (66%)
Ameliaranne Wells 14/17 (82%)
MVP: Liana Leota (Pulse)