The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel cemented their place in the New Zealand Conference Finals with a comprehensive 81-51 win over the Mainland Tactix in Christchurch on Sunday.
With her team posting the highest score of the season in a dominant outing, captain Wendy Frew was rewarded in the best possible fashion in her 100th match for the Steel.
Coming into the match, the Tactix had come the closest to anyone in beating the Steel after the pair drew in Round 2 but there was no repeat in the re-match.
Continuing their unbeaten season, the Steel were in irresistible form, the Tactix having few answers to the classy all-round effort from the southerners who showed few chinks in their desire to repay their inspiring captain.
The Steel set the tone early, peeling off the first five goals for the perfect start and not missing a beat from then on.
Played at a cracking pace, the Steel were almost flawless in their execution during the first stanza. Seamless through-court transition found influential midcourters Shannon Francois and Gina Crampton handily camped on the circle edge where they provided a steady supply to prolific shooter Jhaniele Fowler-Reid.
Hampered by too many turnovers, the Tactix were constantly under pressure, unable to halt the blistering pace of the visitors and unwavering accuracy of Fowler-Reid who pushed her team out to a 24-13 lead at the first break.
It was more of the same on the resumption, the Steel onslaught showing no signs of abating. In-form defender Jane Watson, in her 50th appearance, in the thick of action with a string of turnover ball.
The Tactix struggled to contain the free-flowing Steel, a number of personnel and positional changes unable to stem the flow. Shooter Bailey Mes impressed with her athletic ability and accuracy under the hoop but it was all the Steel who rolled into the main break well in control at 42-24.
The one-way traffic continued during the third stanza, the Steel showing their intent with another influential passage. With the result a foregone conclusion, there was no easing off by the Steel, who continued to punish Tactix errors.
Almost unstoppable, sharp shooter Fowler-Reid had her first miss on the stroke of the three-quarter break, posting a highly impressive 51 from 52 as the Steel took a commanding 64-36 lead into the run home.
photo Getty Images