Resilient Steel fend off gallant Magic in home straight
Showing resilience and patience, the Ascot Park Hotel Southern Steel held off numerous counter-attacks before posting an entertaining 64-60 win over a tenacious Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic in Dunedin on Wednesday.
The injection of playmaking goal attack Olivia Bates late in the third quarter helped the Steel overcome an injury-plagued Magic in a high-quality match-up after the scores were level at three-quarter time.
Bates steadied the ship with her vision and ability to set up play while Te Paea Selby-Rickit provided the finishing under the post. Still searching for their first win, Magic impressed with their growing improvement despite suffering injury setbacks.
With Samantha Sinclair making a rare appearance at wing attack, Magic’s injury list was compounded late in the first quarter when goalkeeper Kelly Jury suffered a dislocated shoulder following a heavy fall.
That resulted in a significant reshuffle of personnel with training partner Lisa Mather coming off the bench to wing defence for her first ANZ Premiership action. Hayley Saunders moved back to goal defence and captain Casey Kopua into the custodian’s position.
With rookie shooter Jennifer O’Connell proving a reliable target under the hoop and Magic not enjoying the same efficiency on attack it was the Steel who hit the first break with a 16-12 lead.
Fully recovered from an ankle injury picked up the pre-season, Magic welcomed back prolific shooter Lenize Potgieter on the resumption. The impact from the South African import was immediate, her extra height providing a ready and reliable target.
The Magic’s attack line found real momentum while Potgieter added the spark with her speed, precision and accuracy under the hoop. At the other end, Kopua wound back the years with her enthusiasm and athletic ability on defence as the Magic drew to within one.
On the back of a free-flowing and entertaining spectacle, the unflappable Steel absorbed the pressure, enjoying a greater weight of possession to maintain their slight edge when leading 32-28 at the main break.
Taking over from Shannon Francois at centre, the added height of defender Dani Gray helped the Steel keep their noses in front before the Magic made a decisive push in the latter stages of the third stanza.
With Potgieter and her young shooting partner Monica Falkner receiving a slick and swift service from a resurgent attack line, momentum swung the Magic’s way. Kopua continued her strong presence at the defensive end, ably supported by the out-of-position Saunders as the visitors reeled in the deficit.
Levelling the scores late in the piece, Magic took the third quarter honours to leave the teams locked at 46-all heading into an exciting final run to the line.