The Northern Mystics have secured their first win of the 2018 ANZ Premiership, with a dramatic 60-54 victory over the short-handed Northern Stars.
Stars midcourter Fa'amu Ioane was 'sin-binned' for two minutes in third quarter, after repeated infringing, but continued to offend and was dismissed for good midway through the fourth quarter, leaving her team to battle on a player short.
Sparked by shooter Maia Wilson, the Stars had started strongly, scoring the first three goals of the encounter, but the Mystics were ahead 12-10 after the opening quarter.
With Ellen Halpenny's introduction to the Stars attack, they levelled the scores 90 seconds into the second quarter, but fell six goals behind midway through the same period.
Silver Ferns star Maria Folau started on the bench, with Bailey Mess and Jamie Hume filling the Mystics shooting positions. Folau replaced Hume for the second quarter and shot a perfect 8/8 to put her team back on top.
Dynamic midcourter Elisapeta Toeava, the shortest player in the competition, and rangy defender Anna Harrison made their presence felt early, as the Mystics built a handy buffer.
But the Stars refused to buckle, the clever play and accurate finishing of shooters Halpenny and Wilson keeping their side well in touch. A late scoring rush of four straight goals helped the Stars tie the game up, but some of that good work was undone when Ioane was sent off in the third quarter.
The Mystics nosed in front to take a tenuous 42-40 lead at the last break, and enjoyed just a one-goal advantage at 52-51 and less than nine minutes to play, but scored five straight goals to take control after Ioane's expulsion.
Folau was her side's most accurate shooter with 25 goals from 31 attempts, although she was overshadowed by Wilson, who returned 36/39.
But the Mystics benefitted from a lion's share of possession, providing their shooters with 17 more shots on goal than their counterparts at the other end.
The result also gave the Mystics early bragging rights in the Northern Challenge, which will be contested over the rivals' three meetings this season.