In-form Steel march on with big victory
The Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel emerged from the darkness to close out Super Sunday with a convincing 75-58 win over WBOP Magic in Auckland today.
Play was delayed after the stadium was plunged into darkness due to a lighting fault, but it had little effect on the defending champions. In a continuation of their recent resurgent form and already assured a place in the Finals Series, the second-placed Steel dashed any Magic hopes of a late season push with a consummate outing.
After a slow start, the league’s second tallest player, young shooter Jen O’Connell exemplified the Steel’s dominance with a personal haul of 51 goals before being subbed off with six minutes remaining.
Competing gamely for a lot of the match, the loss of key experience in their ranks counted against an injury-hit Magic who could not counter an accomplished and dominant Steel.
Attacking play was a feature from the outset of this high-scoring encounter, a versatile and agile Magic looking to blunt the effectiveness of an ever-efficient Steel.
There were no surprises in either line-up, the teams level-pegging through the opening exchanges before the Steel gradually edged their way into a position of control.
Experienced campaigners Gina Crampton, in the midcourt, and goal attack Te Paea Selby-Rickit held the upper hand on attack for the Steel as they worked every-improving young shooter O’Connell into the game.
Playmaking goal attack Monica Falkner and energetic captain Samantha Sinclair, in the midcourt, put in huge workloads but the Magic lacked the same amount of ball as their opponents, the Steel delivering a strong finish to end the first term with an 18-15 lead.
It was a goal-for-goal start on the resumption, the Magic holding on staunchly against an increasingly dominant Steel.
Magic had difficulty in disrupting Selby-Rickit’s pin-point offloads to O’Connell as the 1.93m shooter found her groove under the hoop and growing accuracy. The Steel proved masters at converting their turnover opportunities as they continued to push out their advantage.
The Steel had a defining edge on attack, an increasing volume of ball getting into the hands of O’Connell as the Steel marched on. Magic were unable to effectively stem the tide as the southerners, after a high-scoring 20-16 second stanza, hit the main break well-placed at 38-31.
With the Steel scoring the first three goals at the start of the third stanza, the floodgates looked set to open. Magic had their moments but they were fleeting and there was little respite against the well-drilled Steel.
Changes at the defensive effort did little to help the Magic’s cause, the Steel clinical in their execution as the volume to O’Connell increased. However, Magic showed their fighting spirit with a five-goal burst to reduce the margin from 14 to nine.
Magic did well to stop the score from completely blowing out when the Steel took a 55-45 lead into the last turn.