Magic prevail in defensive blockbuster
In a defensive arm wrestle, Splice Construction Magic shrugged off the threat of a late Northern Mystics fightback to secure a low-scoring 42-34 win in Auckland on Sunday.
After a promising finish to the third stanza, the Mystics could not sustain their momentum in slumping to a fourth straight loss while the Magic pocketed their second win of the season in what was the lowest scoring match in ANZ Premiership history.
A high turnover rate was the standout statistic where both defensive ends played prominent roles, Mystics goalkeeper Erena Mikaere picking up an individual high seven intercepts while her partner Phoenix Karaka notched four. That was matched by the Magic’s duo of Kelly Jury and Casey Kopua who also picked up four apiece.
With the defensive quality in both teams obvious, much would depend on the respective shooting ends and that is how the match tracked with the home side having continued problems on attack.
Stung by a large loss in their previous outing, the Magic were full of early intent with effective flow on attack, replacement player Simmon Howe a strong presence with her vision and slick feeding.
The octane levels for both sides increased steadily in an increasingly willing contest as a goal-for-goal slug fest ensued. A late surge from the visitors helped the Magic forge a handy 14-11 lead at the first break.
With Mikaere and Karaka, for the home side, and Jury and Kopua, for the visitors, providing an imposing presence at the respective defence ends, play flowed wildly back and forth for much of the second quarter.
Few goals were scored as a mix of stunning intercepts and reckless play dominated proceedings. Dashing little Mystics wing attack Elisapeta Toeava showed her court coverage ability by snaffling a number of valuable defensive intercepts as the home struggled to convert on the scoreboard.
That prompted the introduction of 1.93m 17-year-old schoolgirl shooter Grace Nweke in just her second outing at this level to help resurrect the Mystics fortunes.
As in the first quarter, a late surge by the Magic pushed them into a position of greater comfort when they led 23-16 at the main break after restricting the hosts to just five goals.
Retaining an unchanged line-up, the Magic put their foot down early in the third stanza, a steady stream of ball helping them push out to a 10-goal margin. Lacking options on attack, the Mystics continued to shelve opportunities before firing into life late in the piece.
Mikaere and Karaka were an inspiration from the back for the Mystics while Toeava showed her spark with an impressive showing on attack in finding the tall target of Nweke.
Five goals in a row to finish the stanza breathed new life into the home side as they cut the margin to 30-25 in the Magic’s favour, during a low-scoring quarter which they won just 9-7.