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Tight finish expected in Beko Netball League

Waikato-BOP and Central are in the box seat for the Beko Netball League final as both flexed their muscles in the competition’s penultimate round.

Central travelled to Lincoln to play the league leaders Heller’s Mainland and the 46-39 win puts them into second place with just one round left before the July 29 Grand Final in Auckland.

Mainland remain in the hunt for a finals berth but will need a win over South next weekend and will be relying on other results to give them a shot at the title decider.

But it is Waikato-BOP which head into the business end of the season on the back of an impressive outing after a convincing 82-45 win over South in Gore.

They head into the final round in top spot but have perhaps the toughest match-up when they take on a Northern Marvels unit which is finding form after a 70-51 win over the Northern Comets on Sunday.

The 19-goal win was the highest score the Marvels have netted this season and just the second victory despite having pushed all teams to within a few goals.

Marvels Captain Meretini Fuimaono said it was pleasing to see the connections on court finally coming together after some narrow losses.

“It’s good to finally show that we can win and win well,” she said.

“Hopefully going on from this we start next week’s game as strong as we finished today.”

Fuimaono believed they had only shown their potential in glimpses having pushed the league’s top three teams earlier in the season.

“We have it, we know we have it – we’ve come close to the top teams but when it really counts we haven’t quite got there. But I’m happy with this performance against the Comets,” she said.

The second quarter was where they did much of the damage with a raft of personnel changes coupled with the defensive efforts from Antonia Hei-Hei and Ema Lees making an impact.

Errors hampered the Comets first quarter efforts but they were ignited by a mid-court change with about four minutes left in the spell.

Christina Oscar brought plenty of spark to the centre role as the Comets cut a 10-goal deficit to just four goals by the first break.

Marvels coach Ripeka Pirie went to the bench for the second spell with SKYCITY Mystics’ Tera-Maria Amani picking up the goal shooter bib and Ashleigh Garner moving out to goal attack.

There was also a shuffle in the mid-court with Mererangi Paul going to wing attack and Tori Kolose in to centre and Daisey Hurley coming on to wing defence.

But it was the defensive duo of Lees and Hei-Hei – picking up four intercepts and three deflections between them – who fired up the Marvels early in the second quarter as they re-established their 10-goal buffer.

The Marvels steadily built throughout the spell and went into the main break with a 34-19 advantage.

They maintained their goal-scoring momentum in the third stanza led by Amani who landed all but one of her 17 attempts at goal.

Both teams were however guilty of a high turnover count in an area they will want to address leading into their final outing of the year.

The game was also an opportunity for both teams to give ANZ Premiership defenders court time with Storm Purvis (Mystics) getting 30 minutes for the Marvels as she continues her comeback from injury, while Olivia Coughlan (Stars) also got a half game for the Comets.

Results:

Northern Marvels 70 (Tera-Maria Amani 40/44, Ashleigh Garner 14/18, Meretini Fuimoano 16/20) beat Northern Comets 51 (Ivana Rowland 10/11, Filda Vui 28/33, Lahaina-Lee Upu-Toparea 13/17). Quarter scores: 15-11, 34-19, 53-34, 70-51.

Waikato-BOP 82 (Kelsey McPhee 63/67, Harley Smith 19/28) beat South 45 (Katherine Morris 27/31, Georgia Heffernen 5/10, Isabella Masani 13/15). Quarter scores: 26-10, 44-23, 62-36, 82-45.

Central 46 (Jermaine Howard-Vallance 32/39, Saviour Tui 14/18) beat Mainland 39 (Grace Namana 6/9, Gemma Hazeldine 10/14, Jess Prosser 21/22). Quarter scores: 9-7, 23-16, 34-27, 46-39.