Northern Mystics have booked their spot in the ANZ Premiership playoffs with a 63-58 victory over crosstown rivals Northern Stars and all but clinched their place in the competition final.
Despite their loss, the Stars finished celebrating a bonus point that may also be enough to see them into the post-season, with two more games remaining on the regular season schedule.
The 2021 champions never trailled beyond the opening minutes, running up an 18-13 lead through the first quarter and maintaining their margin into the final quarter. The Mystics built their advantage to 10 late in the fourth period, before the Stars rattled off five straight goals to claim their crucial point.
At opposite ends of the court, Silver Ferns shooters Grace Nweke (52/56) and Maia Wilson (33/36) achieved impressive accuracy under goal, while Stars goal attack Amorgani Malesala (25/29) scored in the final seconds to keep her team's season alive.
The Mystics' international defensive combination of Phoenix Karaka and Sulu Fitzpatrick did their best to limit the Stars' attack opportunities, allowing them to convert on less than half their circle feeds.
"We knew we had to start strong, because we knew how clinical they can be on attack," reflected captain Fitzpatrick. "They don't give much ball away and they know how to get ball on [defence].
"Both teams were contesting ball every play and we both knew how much it meant."
The result doesn't quite seal the regular season crown for the Mystics, who sit level with champions Central Pulse atop the table, but with a superior goal differential.
Mathematically, a massive loss to Mainland Tactix on Monday could still deprive them - but realistically, they're home and hosed.
That game also holds the key to the Stars' playoff chances. Tactix can finish equal third on the table with victory, but they would need a big win to progress, with the Aucklanders enjoying a countback advantage.
Certainly, both teams feel confident they are safe.
"We knew how crucial this game was in terms of determining our own future," said Wilson. "I think, if we did the maths right, we should be OK, regardless of the score tomorrow... hopefully, we're through to the finals next week."
Northern Mystics 63 (Nweke 52/56, Vui 11/13) Northern Stars 58 (Wilson 33/36, Malesala 25/29)