Magic prevail over determined Stars
WBOP Magic showed their growing stature to grind out a hard-fought 64-61 win over a determined Northern Stars to close out Round 6 in Tauranga on Wednesday.
After a slow start to their campaign, Magic are growing in confidence with each outing, slotting a fourth straight win in their outing against the Stars while demonstrating their resilience and ability to absorb and deliver.
Right in the contest until the final few minutes, it was a familiar story for the Stars who so far have proved the hard luck team of the competition after posting their fifth bonus point loss of the season to remain winless.
Magic shooter Lenize Potgieter proved the difference, the South African import impressing with her volume while slotting a cool 47 from 52. At the other end, youngster Maia Wilson was not far behind for the Stars with 37 from 40 but her team lacked the overall efficiency of their opponents.
Keen to retain their winning momentum, Magic stuck with a settled line-up of recent weeks while in direct contrast and desperate for their first win, the Stars tinkered with their options.
More accustomed to the red and black colours of Canterbury teams, injury replacement Anna Thompson picked up the centre’s bib, the veteran lining up in her 150th match at national league level, while youngsters Holly Fowler and Kate Burley filled a new-look in-circle defensive pairing.
With the Stars taking time to establish links and find their feet, Magic got away to a flyer when skipping out to an 8-2 lead in the opening five minutes. Enjoying a greater share of the possession, Magic continued to hold the advantage through the poise of Potgieter and her links with centre Samantha Sinclair.
Picking up more ball and finding their groove, the Stars made their presence felt with a strong finish to leave the hosts with a 16-13 lead at the first break.
The intensity picked up a click on the resumption, the Stars levelling the scores within minutes as both teams went to-toe-toe. Stars wing defence Fa’amu Ioane added to a solid defensive wall as the visitors cut down the Magic’s attacking options.
Both teams enjoyed productive mini runs but could not gain any ascendancy as a real arm wrestle ensued. A telling seven-goal unanswered streak to the Magic heading to the main break helped the Magic hold their three-goal buffer when they led 32-29.
Olivia Coughlan took over at goalkeeper for the Stars for the second half while Katherine Levien came on at goal defence for the home team late in the stanza as the Magic eventually broke the stranglehold with their superior finishing on attack.
The Stars remained well in the contest but Magic were efficient at punishing any lapses from their opponents while taking advantage of their slight edge in possession.
Happy to grind it out, Magic held their own while withstanding a strong challenge from the Stars to take a 49-45 lead into the last break.