Magic seal opening win over Steel
The Splice Construction Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic have opened their season with a 54-48 victory over the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel.
Following the Government’s announcement on crowds over 500 at events in a bid to curb the coronavirus outbreak, the Steel lost their home crowd advantage at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin.
But neither side lost their intensity and competitiveness in their first game of the season, which was obvious right through the 60-minute battle.
The Steel were slow to get off the mark, but chipped away at the Magic’s hard-won advantage in the middle quarters, to briefly snatch the lead. But a concerted team effort by the Magic in the final quarter saw them notch up their first victory over the Steel in ANZ Premiership history.
The Magic took an early lead, with goal keep Erena Mikaere - back in her home colours - quickly disrupting the Steel’s new shooting combination of Jen O’Connell and Trinidad & Tobago import Kalifa McCollin.
Although the home side slowly warmed into the game, the Magic were quicker off the mark and built a six-goal advantage.
Abigail Latu-Meafou led the charge on attack for the Magic, standing strong against the Steel defence and feeding accurate goal shoot Kelsey McPhee with clarity. The new midcourt combination of Whitney Souness and Ariana Cable-Dixon (player of the match) was also important in the Magic’s flow through court.
Not to be underestimated, the Steel nabbed three goals in a row just before the first break hooter to close the Magic’s lead to 14-10.
New Magic captain Sam Winders (nee Sinclair) threw herself into so much play in the midcourt defence and had a royal battle with the Steel’s Gina Crampton.
Just when the Magic would look like they had the upper hand, the Steel would grind it out and close the gap again.
At goal shoot, O’Connell took a while to find her feet, and her eye, but solidified her game as the half wore on. She was smartly fed by goal attack McCollin, who was subbed out for Georgia Heffernan just before halftime.
Heffernan, who earned a promotion from the Southern Blast this season, showed no fear potting her first couple of shots at goal from distance and ensured the Steel were still in the game, down 27-24, at the halftime break.
The third quarter began with Steel co-captain Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit spoiling the Magic’s attack, and her own attackers rewarding those efforts by shooting the Steel into the lead, 29-28.
Neither team gave an inch for the rest of the quarter, scoring goal for goal, with the tension telling in some loose passes from both sides. Back-to-back McPhee goals put the Magic back in front, and a long seeking pass from Winders finished off by Latu-Meafou made sure they were up by two, 39-37, heading into the final spell.
While the Steel brought McCollin back into the shooting circle, the Magic created a new momentum incited by Winders, and went out to five goals up with five minutes left on the clock. McPhee held her composure, and was the most consistent shooter in the match, with 35 from 43 attempts (81 percent).