United A’s Alice Hamill looks to receive a pass under pressure from College A’s Faith Scott during Thursday night’s semi-finals. Photo Erin TaskerCollege A and Celtic A will contest the 2019 Mid Canterbury Netball premier one final after both won close, but vastly different semi-finals at the EA Networks Centre on Thursday night.
Top-of-the-table College A took on fourth-ranked United A in the night’s first semi-final and although the underdog United side led for much of the match, the young competition favourites came through when it mattered, just edging ahead in the dying stages to take it out 38-37.
It was a dramatic finish to a drama-filled game, where neither side gave an inch from start to finish.
United just managed to get their noses in front early, leading 11-9 at the end of the first quarter, but College came out firing in the second, scoring the first three goals to lead 12-11.
United recovered and by half-time they’d restored their two-goal margin to be 23-21 up at the mid-point, but again College A came out all guns blazing in the third quarter and soon the two sides were locked at 26-all.
A late turnover gave United the slightest of edges again though, and by three-quarter time the margin was three, at 31-28.
With their season on the line, College A were determined to fight their way back, but United A weren’t going to lie down.
So started a final quarter which had the large, vocal crowd on the edges of their seats.
College drew level at 31-all, then United got out by three, before College came back to again level things up. With three minutes on the clock, it was anyone’s game, at 35-all.
With just over a minute to play, came the deciding moment.
College A nabbed a turnover and scored off it which put them one goal ahead, and from there they made the mature yet possibly slightly risky decision to just pass the ball around as the final minute ticked away.
It worked, and they held on for the win.
College A coach Kaye Kennedy said she was incredibly proud of her young side.
“I was really proud of the way the girls just managed to keep their cool in that last little bit when we were down, because there was a lot of crowd noise and it could have gone either way.
“We could’ve absolutely lost our heads and turned the ball over, but we didn’t,” Kennedy said.
After the excitement died down from that game, the two versus three semi-final then pitted the defending champions Celtic A against a Hampstead A side they’d lost to in the season’s third and final championship round.
While it wasn’t the best performance of the season by either side, with both struggling to turn possession into points at times, Celtic A held on to take it out 24-22 to secure the second spot in next Saturday’s final.
Celtic A coach Ange Leadley said it was a great team effort.
“It was good to step it up another notch and see some things that we have been practising definitely put out on the court, and I think that the determination of the girls really stood out for me,” Leadley said.
In the night’s other premier one match, Methven A’s disappointing season came to a close with their second loss to Mt Somers, 28-25, in the play-off for fifth.
Meanwhile, in the premier two semi-finals, top qualifiers Celtic B took on College B and came away with a 36-27 win. They will now go on to face Southern A in the premier two final, after the Southern girls came through to beat Methven B 35-22 in the other semi.
In the premier two play-off for fifth, Hampstead B just beat Celtic C 36-34.
Both games will be be played on an all-inclusive Mid Canterbury Netball finals day on Saturday August 24, as opposed to premier’s usual Thursday night.
By Erin Tasker © The Ashburton Guardian - 16 August 2019