The Stars came heartbreakingly close to victory, falling 51-49 to close neighbours the MG Mystics in Auckland on Saturday, marking a tough loss in the Northern Challenge.

In a significant game for both teams, the Stars fought valiantly but couldn't prevent the Mystics from reigniting their season following three straight losses. After posting their first win last week, the Stars were consigned to a losing bonus point, their sixth of the season.

The Stars nearly overcame a dominant 17-9 third quarter from the Mystics, delivering a compelling response in the final 15 minutes but ultimately coming up just short. The Mystics won the first clash between the pair by five goals in Round 5. 

Injury disruptions to both sides meant a shuffling of line-ups where the absence of shooter Grace Nweke and midcourter Peta Toeava had Tayla Earle slotting in at wing attack and Katie Te Ao, at centre for the Mystics. 

Promoted from training partner to the fulltime squad during the week, Holly Mather, centre, joined her sister Lisa in the Stars midcourt for the injured Mila Reuelu-Buchanan while Tori Kolose got the nod at wing attack. 

After an even start, the Stars faced strong defensive pressure as Mystics defender Carys Stythe made two quick intercepts, giving the home side the early edge. 

Stythe and Phoenix Karaka were effective in limiting the options to Stars' key shooter Maia Wilson, causing the visitors to struggle in making full use of their possession. Despite a strong effort, a string of five straight goals pushed the Mystics out to a 16-13 lead at the first break.

Multiple changes were made by both sides through the opening stages of the second stanza, including Kayla Johnson and Dani Binks for the Mystics and Emma Thompson for the Stars.. 

Stretching out to a five-goal lead, the Mystics showed promising signs, but the Stars responded with growing interaction between captain Maia Wilson and Amorangi Malesala, who is working her way back from injury. Their connection continued to flourish as the Stars made a late statement.

With Lisa Mather and Kate Burley providing a non-stop effort on defence, the links on attack fell into place, with Malesala and Wilson getting more ball in their hands under the hoop. The play-making Malesala was effective from range while Wilson finished off the close-range shots. 

Repaying the favour, the Stars, on the back of improved possession, finished with a flourish, five unanswered goals nudging them into a 26-25 lead at the main break. 

The Mystics’ defensive efforts made it difficult for the Stars during a dominant third quarter for the Mystics.
Unfortunately, the pressure told on the Stars attack line as the turnover toll mounted, resulting in a growing confidence from the Mystics. Shooter Hannah Glen enjoyed the space and quick service she received, to stretch the Mystics margin to lead 42-35 at the last break. 

The Stars produced a similar defensive response in a thrilling final quarter where Lili Tokaduadua, Burley and Lisa Mather, kept the outcome on a knife-edge as the Mystics lead was slowly eroded. However, two late gains from Karaka proved decisive as helping the Mystics repel a spirited Stars comeback. 

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