Toko­maru first team into pre­mier fi­nal

Marlborough Midweek - - NETBALL - PETER JONES

Toko­maru booked a spot in the Marl­bor­ough pre­mier net­ball fi­nal on Tues­day evening with a 62-51 semi­fi­nal vic­tory over Marl­bor­ough Girls’ Col­lege.

Although the Pic­ton side held a com­fort­able mar­gin of vic­tory at the fi­nal whis­tle, the stu­dents were highly com­pet­i­tive, at least for three quar­ters of the game.

MGCwill look back to the sec­ond quar­ter of an en­thralling en­counter and gri­mace. Lead­ing by a sin­gle goal af­ter an in­spired first 15 min­utes the stu­dents fell off their game in alarm­ing fashion, al­low­ing their ri­vals to forge an eight goal lead, an ad­van­tage they never re­lin­quished.

MGCral­lied to hold Toko to a three-goal mar­gin in the third, then drew the fi­nal stanza, but the dam­age had well and truly been done.

The Pic­ton-based club had been given a timely wake-up call by Har­lequins last week and un­der­lined their cham­pi­onship cre­den­tials with a strong all-court dis­play.

Af­ter a nervy, ten­ta­tive first quar­ter, with both sides in­tent on feel­ing each other out, Toko found their at­tack­ing rhythm in the sec­ond stanza. This, cou­pled with a lift in de­fen­sive in­ten­sity, al­lowed them to put up 20 shots com­pared with their ri­vals’ 12.

Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced, qual­ity play­ers such as Jess Prosser and Gemma Hika un­der the hoop meant 17 were con­verted and sud­denly the score be­gan to blow out.

MGCalso had a class act in the at­tack­ing cir­cle, the re­li­able Malia Manoa shoot­ing at 93 per­cent, but she was forced to live off scraps as Toko dom­i­nated pos­ses­sion.

Their en­er­getic mid­court of Tash Ford, Laura Mur­phy and Hana Wil­son has­sled MGCinto er­rors and, when they got their hands on the ball, dis­played clever pass­ing vari­a­tion and vi­sion to get the ball into their shoot­ers.

At the back, goal keep Holly Bon­ning­ton and Tris­tian Taylor snapped up any loose ball and did their best to deny Manoa and fel­low shooter McKyn­lee Breen space un­der the hoop. The ex­tra spring gen­er­ated by the ath­letic Taylor has be­come a weapon on de­fence, his el­e­va­tion and tim­ing of­ten catch­ing care­less passers out.

The col­lege side, who are off to the South Is­land Sec­ondary Schools cham­pi­onships in Christchurch next week, gave their all.

In the early stages they showed pa­tience with ball in hand that they would not have mus­tered in the early stages of the sea­son. Coach Bek Gal­loway try­ing some tac­ti­cal switches, but with her side play­ing catch-up from the early stages, they were left re­ly­ing on their op­po­nents to get care­less and Toko were too ex­pe­ri­enced for that.

Out­stand­ing in de­fence for MGCwas Cerys James-Sit­ters. The young goal keep gave her taller and more sea­soned op­po­nents no quar­ter in the cir­cle, ag­gres­sively con­test­ing pos­ses­sion along­side Etelini Manoa, who also showed her class. Wing de­fence Han­nah Dick­son is an­other col­lege player who, along with fel­low mid­die Ella Don­ald, has im­proved as the sea­son has pro­gressed, of­fer­ing op­ti­mism for their SI ti­tle bid.

Toko­maru will take con­fi­dence from their vic­tory over a dan­ger­ous op­po­nent. They still have plenty of room for im­prove­ment and will watch next Tues­day’s sec­ond semi­fi­nal be­tween Har­lequins Radich Law and SMOG HR Con­struc­tion with great in­ter­est, hav­ing got their ti­tle tilt back on track af­ter a slight hic­cup last week.

Prosser, such an in­te­gral fig­ure in Toko’s at­tack­ing end, said last week’s loss was ‘‘a good eye-opener’’.

‘‘To lose that game against [Har­lequins] was what we needed. We re-fo­cused tonight on what we had to work on.’’

The fi­nal is set down for Sun­day, Septem­ber 10.

‘‘To lose that game against [Har­lequins] was what we needed. We re­fo­cused tonight on what we had to work on.’’

Toko­maru Cra­far Crouch Pic­ton 62 (Jess Prosser 45/51, Gemma Hika 17/23) Marl­bor­ough Girls’ Col­lege NZ King Salmon 51 (Malia Manoa 42/45, McKyn­lee Breen 9/17). Quar­ter scores (Toko­maru first): 13-14, 17-8, 15-12, 17-17

In­ter­me­di­ate Pre­mier Cup. Bo­hally Se­nior A 28 Queen Char­lotte Col­lege War­riors 10. Quar­ter scores (Bo­hally first): 9-3, 9-1, 5-4, 5-2.

PHOTO: RICKY WIL­SON/STUFF

Toko­maru wing at­tack Laura Mur­phy on at­tack dur­ing the pre­mier grade semi­fi­nal against Marl­bor­ough Girls’ Col­lege on Tues­day evening.

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