Trans-Tasman netball league strugglers Northern Mystics halted defending champions Adelaide Thunderbirds’ 16-game winning streak with a shock 71-68 extra-time win in Auckland on Monday.
In stark contrast to their previous games, the Mystics never gave up and fought doggedly to take the lead with less than 10 seconds of regulation time remaining.
But Diamonds goal attack Erin Bell sunk the long-distance pressure shot to level the scores and send the game into two seven-minute quarters of extra time.
Adelaide led 64-63 at the first break, the Mystics staying in touch courtesy of a Maria Tutaia long bomb right on the whistle.
The Aucklanders kept calm in the second stanza, Tutaia and goal shoot Cathrine Latu finishing coolly as the Mystics’ superb defensive effort picked up the turnover ball that saw them home.
In her first game since November 2012, Mystics defender Anna Harrison was simply outstanding. Her combination with goal defence Julie Corletto kept Thunderbirds shooters Carla Borrego and Bell under constant pressure, and she provided invaluable drive in bringing the ball through court.
A 74-cap Silver Fern, Harrison took time off for the birth of son Isaac in September last year, and has been restricted in her return by a niggling foot injury.
As well as seeing out a full 60 minutes in her first game back at goal defence, Harrison played both quarters of extra time at wing defence.
The Thunderbirds led 15-12 at the end of the first quarter of regulation time, centre Renae Hallinan leading a gritty midcourt effort in going toe-to-toe with Silver Ferns and Mystics centre Laura Langman.
Adelaide maintained that margin almost until halftime when the Mystics went on a five-goal run to draw level 26-26 at the break.
With Madeleine Proud coming on at centre, and Hallinan back at wing defence creating havoc, the Thunderbirds lifted to lead by six midway through the third stanza only for the Mystics to battle back and trail 41-42 with 15 minutes remaining.
The visitors were hit hard by the loss of midcourter Leigh Waddington with less than three minutes remaining, the wing attack stretchered off with what looked like a season-ending knee injury.
But although they created the turnovers that could have secured the game, Adelaide couldn’t convert the possession into goals.